Veteran trees with their substantial girth, holes and crevices, rot and dead wood, support a wide range of often uncommon fungi, lichen, mosses, invertebrates -particularly beetles, and notably bats.
The age, size and distinctive shapes of veteran trees, both native and non-native species, are of exceptional value for wildlife and their contribution to the historic landscape.
Veteran trees are usually old, beyond the peak of their growth. They may also be younger, middle-aged trees with aging characteristics:
Dedicated to the memory of Janet Carbutt-Lang who led work on veteran trees for Barnsley Biodiversity Trust
Most veteran trees are found in historic parklands (60% nationally), however some are found as isolated individuals or in small numbers in hedgerows, churchyards and, as relics of older landscapes, in fields.
Some veteran trees may be quite small in size, depending on the species and factors such as growing in adverse conditions or being repeatedly coppiced or pollarded. Local examples include oaks on Wharncliffe Crag and Hawthorns in Stainborough Park.
The National Planning Policy Framework and Natural England’s Standing Advice on protecting Veteran Trees from development includes Veteran Trees whether they are within parkland or in other areas. The presence of veteran trees is a material consideration in planning applications.
Development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats (such as … ancient or veteran trees) should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons and a suitable compensation strategy exists. NPPF 180c
See the Parkland habitat pages for more on Veteran Trees.
The Woodland Trust runs the Ancient Tree Inventory and distinguishes between ancient trees, veteran trees and notable trees.
All ancient trees are veteran trees. However not all veteran trees are old enough to be ancient. Some veteran trees have developed their features as a result of incidents in their shorter lives and perhaps their environment.
The term veteran trees includes ancient trees and is used here because all veteran trees –whether ancient or not– are important for biodiversity.
Trees that are not ancient and without veteran features may be notable for other reasons such as their size and position in the landscape.