Ancient forest set to share its secrets

TED GREEN inspected the corpse of an ancient oak which flourished for 600 years in Windsor Park. It died last summer, finished off by the drought, but its massive trunk will be left as the home for generations of insects and birds.

'The trunk is hollow,' said Mr Green, who in the course of his work for English Nature has found more than 2,000 ancient trees in Windsor Park. 'All the old trees have hollow trunks. Foresters believe that a healthy tree must have a solid trunk. But a hollow trunk is nature's way of creating a stronger structure which will bend in the wind.'

He pointed to a bright orange bracket fungus growing out of an old beech.

'The fungus hollows out the old wood in the centre of the trunk leaving the healthy new wood on the outside,' said Mr Green. 'Fungi are the third kingdom. We can't exist without them.'

Mr Green was our guide in the south forest at Windsor which will be officially open to the public for the first time on monday. For Mr Green the forest was never closed - as a boy he lived nearby in Ascot and roamed freely among the trees diving for cover if he saw a ranger. He still knows every tree and has marked and annotated more than 7,000.

Ancient trunks stand rotting in the forest and large branches lie among the litter on the forest floor. Bracken fern and forest herbs grow in the massive bowl of an old oak trunk like a huge pot plant. This rotting wood is the home for some hundreds of species of strange insects and fungi, relics of Britain's primeval forest that have survived nowhere else.

Royalty first hunted the forest in 1086 And the biological link with the ancient flora and fauna of that time has never been broken. Some ancient trees were always left by loving foresters when the younger growth was cleared in two world wars. In the 1950s and 1960s much of Windsor forest was replanted with quick growing conifers such as Norway spruce and Scot's pine but some of the ancient trees were retained.

The 7,500 acres of Windsor Park is now recognised as the best site for wood fungi and forest insects in Northwest Europe and the Crown Estate was presented yesterday with a Centre of Excellence award for its work in maintaining the forest.

Mr Green has toured the whole of Europe in search of ancient trees and found very few in France, Germany or central Europe until he came to the wild forest on the borders of Poland and Russia.

'With the exception of Poland and Spain it seems that all the old trees of Europe have been cut down. Our trees were probably saved by coal. The railway brought coal to people all over England and they stopped gathering wood,' said Mr Green. 'Now Britain has 90 per cent of the ancient trees in Europe. They are just as much a part of our heritage as old buildings. We must not take them for granted.'

The South Forest in Windsor Park will be open to the public for the first time on bank holiday monday 30 June. Entrance by Forest Gate on the A332.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy as ECB finally wield the axe
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas