Here's a look at a few Banbury area iconic trees ahead of National Tree Week

National Tree Week from November 27 to December 5 is the UK’s largest annual tree celebration and marks the start of the winter tree planting season.

Tuesday, 23rd November 2021, 1:20 pm

This is a great time to celebrate some of the best loved trees in and around Banbury. The oldest tree in Oxfordshire is thought to be a yew tree over 1,600 years old in Oxford, and there are several oak trees over 400 years old in the county.

The Adderbury oak isn’t this old, but is still a very fine and well-loved tree, as is the oak at North Newington.

2020 was considered to be a mast year, when oaks produce a huge crop of acorns. According to the Woodland Trust these occur every three to five years and are called mast years because historically the little acorns grew into oak trees which could be cut down to make ship masts.

White cherry tree in Bloxham Road, Banbury

At this time of year some of the most dramatic trees in Banbury are actually in the Sainsbury’s car park near the Horton Hospital. The trees in the car park are called Liquidambar or Sweet Gum and their leaves turn into fine deep shades of red and gold in autumn.

In spring time the Bloxham Road in Banbury has a dramatic display of blossom, including sweeping white ornamental cherry blossom on one side and alternating pink and white crab apple or ‘malus’ tree blossom on the other.

Cherwell District Council has planted thousands of trees over the years, and the latest report suggests that Oxfordshire needs to establish 400 hectares, the equivalent of 750 football pitches, of new woodland every year between now and 2050 to meet Climate Change Committee targets.

Where will all these trees go, with new housing estates springing up at the same time? The Oxfordshire Treescapes Project was set up to answer this question. Its advisory service is designed to help farmers, landowners, community groups or parish councils decide where and why to introduce treescapes.

The trees in the Sainsbury’s car park near the Horton Hospital in Banbury, which are called Liquidambar or Sweet Gum (photo credit to Carmen Guard)

Online maps can be viewed at through the web link here: https://www.oxtrees.uk/the-story-map or a detailed report on your land or parish can be requested.

The key is to identify ‘the right tree in the right place,’ or perhaps a hedge where the maps indicate this is a better solution than a tree. Sometimes it’s just not the right place to plant anything. The maps also identify where no trees should be planted as prime agricultural land needs to be maintained for food production.

Trees planted on Heath Farm, between Banbury and Chipping Norton, are a perfect illustration of the value of planting in ‘the right tree in the right place.’ Trees were planted on grade three land where the slope makes farming difficult, thanks to a grant scheme in the 1970s to encourage diversification. Now the trees are providing a habitat for nature and thousands of nuts including walnuts, chestnuts and hazelnuts sold at local farmers markets.

Trees play an important part in helping to reduce pollution, noise and temperature and can help prevent flooding so for this reason they’re considered vital in our efforts to tackle climate change. They are also good in many other ways such as providing a sense of calm and happiness to many people, not to mention home to a wide variety of creatures making them essential to support biodiversity.

The Adderbury Oak near Banbury (photo credit Patricia Church)

The Japanese believe so strongly in the health-giving properties of forests they have a term for the practice of walking in the woods called shinrin-yoku, which translates literally as forest bathing. Scientists have recently discovered that inhaling the phytoncides produced by trees in forests and woodlands can actually improve the immune system function.

There are many wonderful places near Banbury to walk in the woods or see special trees. In the grounds of Blenheim Palace you can see the 300 year old Cedar of Lebanon used as the tree by the Black Lake at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films.

To mark the Platinum Jubilee next year the Queen’s Green Canopy has been launched, inviting people from across the UK to “Plant a Tree for the Jubilee.”

For anyone who wants to plant a tree but doesn’t have space there are lots of options to take part.

Banbury area resident Nicky Smith said: “We each planted a tree in memory of my dad when he died, and add another tree on special occasions. He was half Scottish so we thought it would be nice to support Rewilding Scotland, and we’ve got a Grove planted in his name now.”

If you would like to plant a tree, support a woodland charity or visit a woodland area here are a few useful details on local area and national groups from the Banbury Trees group (a community tree planting group) to the Oxfordshire Treescapes Project ( https://www.oxtrees.uk ) to the Trust for Oxfordshire's Environment ( https://www.trustforoxfordshire.org.uk/plant-a-tree ) to the Woodland Trust charity ( https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/ ) to the Trees for Life charity ( https://treesforlife.org.uk/) and the National Forest charity ( https://www.nationalforest.org/get-involved/plant-a-tree).