Didcot Trees

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.

Edmonds Park © Geoff Bushell
Edmonds Park © Geoff Bushell

Inspiration

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”.

200 year old oak, Bluebell Lane, Stubbings Land © Geoff Bushell
200 year old oak, Bluebell Lane, Stubbings Land © Geoff Bushell

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?

Corsican pine, Methodist Church. Image by Geoff Bushell.
Corsican pine, Methodist Church. Image by Geoff Bushell.

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.

Blossom trees along the Broadway, Didcot
Blossom trees along the Broadway, Didcot

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

The oldest oak in Didcot © Geoff Bushell
The oldest oak in Didcot © Geoff Bushell

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!

Woods

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.

Furlong Wood © Geoff Bushell
Furlong Wood © Geoff Bushell

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.

Felled storm damaged oaks, Oakland Lea © Geoff Bushell
Felled storm damaged oaks, Oakend Lea © Geoff Bushell

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!

12 Replies to “Didcot Trees”

  1. What a wonderful thing to do during lockdown! Well done Geoff; and thank you for publicising it, indidcot. 😊

    1. Thanks Bob. The numbers of trees in Didcot is in slow decline, mostly because of of natural causes such as fungus, decay and storm damage. However, plans for housing estates don’t help, but SODC has strict policies for protecting trees that we hope will be borne out in practice when applications for new housing estates are made. I’m currently looking into the position on trees in Valley Park, but this is in Vale of White Horse District, which has different policies. I’ll add a page to my Didcot Trees website when I know the position.

  2. Thankyou so much for this fabulous resource. Do you know if there are any plans/funds to improve access and tidy up some of the woods to make the spaces a bit more child friendly? I live near the north wood on GWP and your map with fridge/car says it all really.

    1. Hi, I’m not sure who owns this wood but it might be worth raising it as an issue with the Great Western Park Residents Association?

      1. I’ve submitted an “Environcrime” report to SODC. They look into fly-tips like these to see if they can work out who left the items. Perhaps unlikely in this case, but it could lead to a fine for the perpetrator,

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