The Kent Heritage Trees Project was a five year heritage lottery grant funded project. The project aimed to celebrate and promote the value of heritage trees and to inspire local communities about the wonder of their local heritage trees and woodlands.
Summary of project achievements
|Activity Description||Original target agreed with HLF||Actual Numbers achieved||Target achieved (% where relevant)|
|Woodland Wonder education sessions||Hold 480 sessions with 14,400 participants||571 sessions held, with 17,178 participants||119|
|Produce & distribute Woodland Wonder leaflet to schools & youth groups||1000 leaflets to be printed and distributed||1000 leaflets distributed to schools across Kent in 2013||100|
|KHT Surveying Skills courses||Hold 61 courses for volunteer surveyors, community groups and the wider public||54 courses held at 15 sites across Kent. 584 participants. Courses were reduced due to overlap of subject matter||88|
|Heritage Tree courses for KHT surveyors and the public||Hold 24 courses||24 courses held with 245 participants at 15 sites across Kent||100|
|Biodiversity courses for KHT surveyors & public||Hold 64 courses||66 courses held with 746 participants at 15 sites across Kent||103|
|Practical Action events||Run 113 practical task activities||202 practical tasks with 1,084 participants||179|
|Heritage Trees of the Future planting events||Hold 24 events, 2 per Kent district||24 events held with 37 trees planted, 2 per Kent district||100|
|Godinton Park educational sessions||Run 15 activities for children and families||5 educational events held at godinton Park and 10 events held at other venues across Kent. 1,129 participants||100|
|Engaging school and youth groups in tree surveying||Survey heritage trees at sites where educational sessions take place||Survey activities carried out at school and youth group sites during Woodland Wonder educational sessions||Surveys completed at 56 sites|
|Visits to the centre for Kentish studies and Visits to the records Centre of the Dioceses of Canterbury||8 visits to each (120 total participants)||6 trips to the new Kent History and Library Centre, Maidstone||The centre closed during the project. Additional visits to historic parks were undertaken instead.|
|Commission and host The Kent Heritage Trees website||500 users engaging with the site per year||Website established in 2011. 14,432 unique visitors (up to April 2016), averaging 2,624 users per year||Site established on time 524% of target users|
|Surveying Kent’s Heritage Trees||Identify and record 10,000 trees.||11,227 trees 825 AVT 1,903 TWT||112|
|Recruit & train volunteer Tree surveyors||To train 330 volunteers.||396 Volunteer Tree Surveyors trained.||120|
|Recruit and train volunteers to verify records||To train 40 volunteers to be verifiers Hold 2 courses||24 courses held with 245 participants at 15 sites across Kent||100|
|Produce and distribute KHT Leaflets||10,000 leaflets to be printed and distributed||12,850 leaflets printed and distributed throughout Kent||128|
Heritage trees are defined by the Forestry Commission as old trees, wide trees, rare trees and trees with historical and cultural significance. Trees with heritage status can be found all around us in woodlands, parks even in your own back gardens.
Heritage trees are an integral part of our natural heritage. They are the old trees in our woodlands, parklands and hedgerows. Our ancestors valued these trees as vital assets; they were part of their subsistence and economy, as well as objects of religious and social significance. In modern day Kent few trees are now managed and maintained for their produce. Many of our heritage trees have been lost to make room for development, intensive agriculture or forestry plantations, others have been felled due to concerns for public safety.
In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in these significant trees. Their biological, historical and cultural importance is being increasingly recognised, alongside their aesthetic appeal and the unique contribution they make to the wider landscape. These trees are as much a part of our heritage as stately homes, cathedrals and works of art.
Every community has its special trees. Some are widely appreciated and much visited, others may be tucked away and forgotten, but all are worthy of celebration and are in need of protection and careful management to ensure they can continue to provide delight and inspiration to future generations.
The Kent Heritage Trees Project was built upon the foundations of TCV’s Ashford Borough Veteran Trees Project. This was a two year project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project recruited 117 volunteers, who located and surveyed over 800 ancient and veteran trees across the Borough.
The vision of the Kent Heritage Trees Project was to extend the search for these spectacular trees across the whole of Kent. It also sought to rejuvenate people’s relationship with trees; empowering communities to better understand and care for their natural heritage. By locating, recording and celebrating these wonderful trees, we can all help to ensure they will be valued and protected into the future as irreplaceable historic, cultural and environmental treasures.
Kent’s Tree heritage
Kent’s tree heritage is extremely diverse; the distribution of our ancient trees tells a story of historic land use, industry, geology and the shifting patterns of estates and settlements established as far back as the Bronze Age.
Kent’s climate and soils, as well as its close proximity to London markets, have provided the county with a long history of production. We have wonderful old orchards found in two main areas, the North Kent Fruit Belt (between Rochester and Faversham) and the Mid Kent Fruit Belt (in the central areas of the High and Low Weald and the Greensand).
Over the past century, East Malling Research Station has developed top fruits such as apples, cherries, pears and plums which now populate the world. The National Fruit Collection has been located at Brogdale near Faversham and the National Pinetum, the most extensive collection of conifers in the world, is located at Bedgebury and managed by the Forestry Commission.
Kent is home to remarkable old trees, standing in the parklands of numerous historic estates and within ancient woodlands such as The Blean, Orlestone Forest and The Weald; woodlands such as these are the last remaining fragments of the original Wildwood or Andresweald that once covered the whole of Southern England.
Today, our ancient woodlands remain in areas not easily cleared for agriculture. Beech hangers cling to the scarp slopes of the North Downs and thick woods remain on the Wealden Clay, where soils are too heavy for the plough. Hornbeam, hazel and chestnut coppice woodlands have endured for centuries, thanks to their usefulness; essential for hop poles, fence posts, wattle, wood fuel and charcoal for salt, gunpowder and iron workings.
A Forestry Commission survey conducted in 1947, found 40% of the South East’s woodlands to be managed under a coppice system – a form of management particularly beneficial for a wide range of wildlife, able to take advantage of the periodic exposure of the forest floor to sunlight. Coppice systems are now confined to around 5% of our woodlands. As markets and craftsmen for coppice products have declined, so too has the wildlife associated with such systems.
Historically, wood has been as essential to industry as oil, concrete and metal are today. Our woodland resources enabled the building of ships for trade and exploration fuelled the industrial revolution by powering tin and coal mines. Trees have housed us, kept us warm, fed our families and livestock, tanned our leathers, provided foods and medicines for millennia.
Trees and woodlands continue to be an essential part of our lives today. They provide timber products and fuel; on a small scale, to run household stoves or woodchip boilers (such as the one used at Singleton Environment Centre, home to the Kent Heritage Trees Project), to large scale wood fuel power stations. Trees shade our streets and provide aesthetically pleasing landscapes, they provide food, oxygen, stabilize soil and provide habitat for wildlife. Contact with trees in the built and natural environment enriches people’s lives, connects them to their landscape, history and to each other.