Veteran trees are an important part of our cultural heritage and are often of considerable ecological and amenity value. Individual trees may be considered 'veterans' because of their great age, the fact that they are in a very advanced stage in their natural life cycle, or because of their intrinsic aesthetic, biological or cultural interest.
The Durham countryside is very diverse and contains many local landscapes in which veteran trees can be found, and particularly ancient deer parks, ornamental parks and gardens, wooded estate farmland, ancient woods and wood pastures, village greens and areas of early enclosure with old field boundaries.
Veteran trees are poorly recorded across the British Isles generally and County Durham is no exception. Three 'National Champion Trees' (the largest examples of their kind by girth or height) have been recorded to date in Durham: a Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) at Cotherstone, a Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris) at Croxdale Hall and a Yellow-berried Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia var.) at East Durham and Houghall College, Durham.
Valuable information on veterans in the County can be found in
Trees of County Durham by John McBain which can be downloaded in PDF format from the Durham Veteran Tree Project website.
Further information on veteran trees, their distribution, their care and management, and how to get involved in recording them, can be found on the following websites:
- Durham Veteran Tree Project
- The Ancient Tree Forum
- The Tree Register
- The Ancient Tree Hunt
- The Tree Council
Useful publications include the Veteran Trees Management Handbook which can be downloaded free from the Natural England website, and Ancient Tree Guides No.1: Trees and Farming which can be downloaded from the The Ancient Tree Forum website.