For this week’s blog I’m delighted to launch a new website, Didcot Trees.
Many of you will be familiar with Geoff Bushell, one of the founders of Didcot Concert Orchestra. Over lockdown Geoff has created a website to celebrate, and help protect, the trees in our town.
Geoff explains his motivation behind the project, “I’ve always had a wonder of large old trees, perhaps starting in childhood when living in a house called “Oak Tree” with a large oak on the pavement outside. But I never seemed to have the time to take my interest further until the lockdown in March 2020 stopped all of our musical activities, including Didcot Concert Orchestra, giving me more time to appreciate the natural world.
Didcot has around 500 mature oak trees, and on our daily walks, I decided to take some photographs. I’m glad I did, because trees are sometimes lost perhaps through storm damage or fungi and parasites. While photographing trees, particularly longer-lived oaks, I measured larger ones that were publicly accessible, and used a Woodland Trust ready reckoner to estimate their ages”.
Geoff continues “Having acquired photographs of 300 oaks and other trees, it seemed to me that I should make this information available more widely, hoping that I might inspire others to love trees and to appreciate the many environmental benefits that they bring. I also wanted to raise awareness that it takes many decades for newly planted trees to give the same benefits as mature trees. By promoting understanding of the threats trees face, I hope to encourage others to play a part in looking after and protecting them, especially those which have taken more than a century to reach the size they are today.”
What’s on the Didcot Trees website?
I’ve spent several hours browsing the Didcot Trees website. It is a brilliant resource for the town; hugely informative and well-researched.
Each part of town has a subsection on the website, which outlines the key trees found in the vicinity, followed by individual photographs and details of the main trees. Whilst the primary focus is on oaks (as these are the predominant mature tree species in Didcot) Geoff has also included other notable trees around town. These include some of my favourites; the Corsican pine outside the Methodist Church, the cherry blossom trees on the Broadway and the sequoia tree at the old Northbourne Church.
Geoff’s selection criteria for choosing trees were those whose age and grandeur made him stop and think what they had survived to reach that size and what might be needed to help them survive another 100 years or more. He felt each had a story to tell, and made an important contribution to the street scene and landscape of Didcot.
The oldest and the largest
Didcot Trees also records the 20 largest oaks, the biggest and oldest of which is found next to the football pavilion in Edmonds Park. By measuring the girth size Geoff has determined it to date from 1680, making it approximately 340 years old. However, it’s not the oldest tree in Didcot. This title goes to the yew in All Saints’ Churchyard, which is probably around 1000 years old. It’s incredible to think this tree has lived through wars, plague and fire; it was already several hundred years old when King Henry VIII took the throne!
As well as individual trees, Geoff has recorded details of local woods. Some of these are private, with no public access, but others are accessible. The best known, although least mature, is the Millennium Wood, between Didcot and East Hagbourne. Other spots include a small wood on Ladygrove, known as The Bower, and a larger wooded area on Great Western Park which borders the A4130.
And just in case you need a little help with tree identification, the website also includes information on different species.
Protecting the trees
As one of Geoff’s motivations for the website is to increase awareness of the trees around us, it is fitting the website includes details on how we can protect them. He explains the national and local tree policies, and what residents can do if they feel a tree is threatened. Geoff further explains about Tree Protection Orders and Conservation Areas. He has included case studies of trees which have been threatened in Didcot, along with the successful attempts to halt harm to them.
Geoff also introduces Councillors Ian Snowdon and Peter Dragonetti who were recently appointed as District Council Tree Champions. Their brief is to promote the value of trees in tackling the climate and ecological emergencies and to encourage people to reconnect with nature. I’m confident the Didcot Trees website will help them with this role, and perhaps act as inspiration for other towns.
Visit the Didcot Trees website
As can be seen from the above, the Didcot Trees website is a treasure trove of information. It’s certainly made me see the trees around town in a new light.
Do pop over to the website and take a look. Let me know what you think!