Blenheim Palace found to have biggest collection of ancient trees in Europe

The Woodland Trust is challenging people find and record ancient trees after it helped confirm that Blenheim Palace has the biggest collection of ancient oak trees in Europe.

Staff at the palace in Woodstock recorded 291 living oak trees with a girth of at least 5m – 220 of these veterans are in High Park, a Site of Special Scientific Interest currently closed to the public.

A king oak in the grounds of Blenheim Palace. Photo: Blenheim Palace

A king oak in the grounds of Blenheim Palace. Photo: Blenheim Palace

This data, collected primarily by Kew Garden’s oak researcher Aljos Farjon, has been compared with other records on the Woodland Trust’s ancient tree inventory to confirm the accolade.

“Of all the sites with ancient oaks I have seen, High Park is the most amazing, it’s like stepping back into the distant wild past of our country," the botanist said.

Ancient and veteran trees were recently given the same protection as built heritage under the National Planning Policy Framework.

But the Woodland Trust is calling on the public to help find potentially thousands of unidentified ancient trees as they cannot be protected otherwise.

One of the many oak trees at Blenheim Palace. Photo: Blenheim Palace

One of the many oak trees at Blenheim Palace. Photo: Blenheim Palace

Kylie Harrison-Mellor, citizen science officer for the charity, said: “Ancient and veteran trees are the fattest, knobbliest, and most fascinating specimens of trees.

"They have countless stories to tell and support huge networks of native flora and fauna.

“They were recently given better protection under the National Planning Policy Framework, but unless we know where they are, we can’t campaign against their damage and destruction.

“By recording with the ancient tree inventory, members of the public can take an active part in defending some of our most valuable habitats.

"We know there are thousands out there we haven’t found yet – who knows, there could still be a bigger collection of ancients waiting to be discovered.”

Anyone can search for and record trees on the inventory – which has been running for over a decade with 160,000 trees listed.

To find out more about ancient trees, and to add a tree to the inventory go to the Woodland Trust’s new inventory website.