Often our oldest farmland trees have outlived others because of their careful management and practical use on the farm, allowing them to live for hundreds of years. Some of the oldest of these could barely be described as trees at all, such as hedgerow stools that have persisted through a continual cycle of coppicing and/or laying. Winter is a great time to discover and appreciate these stools when the hedges are at their barest, revealing the old stools deep in the hedge. They can give clues about how the hedge has been managed, not only in the last few decades, but sometimes going back hundreds of years.

In Cornwall, we have a large number of these stools scattered through our hedge network, especially ash. One particularly impressive specimen I noticed during a bird survey this winter near Callington stood out to me more than most because of the huge pleacher running across the top of the bank – indicating that this particular ash was laid historically, and acting as a living reminder of how we used to manage our hedges. Hedge laying has probably never been particularly widespread in Cornwall, with more in the east of the county, especially in the Tamar Valley. Grants available through Countryside Stewardship are available for hedge laying and coppicing to help rejuvenate hedges, and with more and more becoming gappy and thin at the base, and ‘knuckled’ at the top from repeated flailing, you might consider if any of your hedges could benefit from a cycle of this traditional management, especially if you can make use of the resulting brash and timber for mulch, bedding, wood fuel or compost.


These large coppice stools are often an important source of rotting wood, which provides a home for many specialist species, particularly beetles. Other ash coppice stools on the farm showed this well, including the one below which was almost completely hollow.



Do you have any impressive old trees on your farm?

To help spread awareness of, and advice for the protection of ancient trees, we are presenting this series in the FWAG SouthWest e-news to highlight a different farmland tree each month. We therefore invite you to send photos of a tree and a short description if possible. You could describe the tree, giving an approximate girth measurement (circumference at 1.5m height). Describe how you use the land around it and whether you consider the tree to be important to your family. Please send a photo and even a historical photo if you have one. We will select one tree each month to feature in an article, and with your permission, any special trees can be recorded on the Ancient Tree Inventory. Our articles will also include some recommendations for protecting trees in similar situations. These will also be added to a blog on the FWAG SouthWest website. From this collection, a winning tree will be chosen at the end of the year, based on appearance, age, cultural significance and the protection it has received.

Send us your trees! Send photos and a few words to Lawrie at [email protected]

Member PLUS readers might consider using their next annual visit to complete a survey of trees. We can map trees of particular significance, estimate their age and provide recommendations of management that will enhance their longevity. We will work with the Ancient Tree Forum to ensure we are providing the most beneficial advice.