We are the Local Environment Group for the area around Prestwood in Buckinghamshire, including Great Missenden,
The Hampdens, The Kingshills, North Dean and Speen
We aim to protect and enhance the quality of the natural environment through the involvement of local people.
Woodlands in our area were all intensively worked in past centuries, especially for the local furniture industry. Few ancient trees have survived except where they are part of parkland, avenues or otherwise mark boundary features. Very few survive from over 250 years ago, although some sweet chestnuts and common limes planted in Queen Elizabeth I’s reign can be seen along The Glade, a former avenue of trees to Hampden House. There are other old trees dotted about the fields and hedgerows of the Hampden Estate. A very large ash, and old sycamores, oaks and walnut can also be seen in Abbey Park, Great Missenden. A park was laid out in Prestwood close to the parish church when it was built in 1849.
This is now in private ownership, but there is a footpath across it. Here there are a number of interesting trees that are approaching maturity, including turkey oak, sweet chestnut, limes, beech and a fine example of a Lucombe oak, a hybrid developed in the 18th century in Devon. Ancient beeches can be seen at Little Hampden Common.
Ancient trees support a huge fauna of insects (some rare), lichens, mosses, and fungi, so that they can be seen to constitute micro-habitats in their own right. Very few are protected by Tree Preservation Orders, although these would not in any case protect such trees from their chief threat, which is simply collapse through old age. Large trees close to habitations, however, are under threat from the “safety-first” culture of the present day and are seldom allowed to survive very long.
Prestwood Nature has surveyed all accessible large trees in the centre of its area and is gradually incorporating other sections. The girth is measured (at chest-height) as the best approximation to age – although allowance has to be made for the situation of the tree, type of tree and soil in translating size into age. Fortunately some ring-counts have been possible on the stumps of some recently felled trees and this has enabled us to develop local graphs for computing rough tree-ages.
Further information: Special Trees around Prestwood (article)
Ancient Trees and Parkland
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