A popular destination for anybody seeking to ‘get out more’ is to head for the local woods. At the last count 13% of all the land in the UK is covered by woodland – 10% in England, 15% in Wales, 19% in Scotland but only 8% in Northern Ireland. At county level it is perhaps surprising that the most wooded county in the UK is Surrey (22.4%), which is on the fringes of Greater London. The least wooded ceremonial county is Cambridgeshire with just 3.6% of its land under woodland, although amongst ‘modern counties’ the title of ‘least wooded’ falls to Eilean Sar, the Western Isles of Scotland, with less than 2% woodland.
The woodlands of our own home counties provide a rich range of ‘record locations’. These include the largest woodland area, the oldest tree, the broadest tree and the tallest tree for each county – and in many counties there are also examples of ‘champion trees’, which are the tallest, broadest or oldest of their species in the UK. Visiting the tallest tree in your own county can be a quite humbling experience as you realise the age and sheer size of the largest and oldest living things on the planet.
West Sussex is the second most wooded county in the UK (21.4%) and is home to a number of champion ‘tallest trees’ . The tallest is a Giant Redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum) which stands in woodlands at the National Trust property Nymans Gardens, Handcross, 10km south of Crawley. This specimen is 51m tall and can be ‘visited’ when Nymans Gardens is open to the public (Grid Reference TQ27152954). Giant Redwoods are, of course, a non-native species in the UK and originate from North America – in many counties, though, they are the tallest trees to be found, having been popular additions to grand country estates during the 19th century. West Sussex, interestingly, is also home to the tallest native tree in the UK, a specimen of the European Beech (Fagus sylvatica). The tree is also in National Trust woodlands, on the Devil’s Dyke estate at Newtimber Holt, Newtimber, which is 5km north of Brighton on the South Downs. The tree was measured in 2015 at 46m tall (Grid Reference TQ27701260). Tree records, of course, can change, as record trees die or fall, or new record trees are discovered or simply overtake the old ones by growing! The Newtimber beech took the record from a beech tree in Gloucestershire by 1m, for example, when it was eventually measured for the first time. Nearby at Newtimber Holt is an ash tree in the UK, which is 36.5m tall. This tree lost the record as the tallest of its species in the UK in July 2018, when an ash tree at Workman’s Wood near Painswick in Gloucestershire was measured at 41m tall (Grid Reference SO90001090). So Gloucestershire and West Sussex have ‘traded’ record trees in recent years!
East Sussex is much less wooded than West Sussex (c10%), but its record height trees match those of its neighbour. The county has two trees which share the title of tallest. Like West Sussex, one is a Giant Redwood, at Beauport Park, near Hastings, which was measured as 45.5m tall in 2014 (Grid Reference TQ77901428). The tree was planted by the Lamb family, who owned the estate, using one of the first batch of Giant Redwood seeds brought to the UK by botanist William Lobb in the mid-1850s. The equal tallest tree in the county is also one with a great heritage. The Grand Fir (Abies grandis) tree at Eridge Park, just north of Crowborough, was measured at 45.5m in April 2016, but its growth has been well monitored. The tree was planted by Benjamin Disraeli, the Prime Minister in 1868, and by 1909 it was 23m tall. Measurements by various methods between 1957 and 2016 have recorded it as between 45.5m and 46m tall. (Grid Reference TQ56483597). Unfortunately you can’t visit this tree unless you are attending an event at Eridge Park, as the woodlands are private – but in winter you can see the top of the tree from the nearby A22 road at Eridge.
So where is the tallest tree in the UK? Well its a Douglas Fir tree in Reelig Glen near Inverness, which is 66.4m tall and is the tallest coniferous tree in Europe. It only became the tallest tree in 2014 when it grew to exceed the height of the 64m Dughall Mor Douglas Fir which is only 50m away. The trees are in woodland on the northern slopes of The Aird, 8km west of Inverness (Grid Reference NH55924246)
If you want to find out more about the record trees in your own county, there are two great sources
The Must Get Out More Question !
Where is the remotest place in England i.e. the place that is furthest from a public road?
The Answer to the Last Question
Where is the oldest family business in the UK based, and when was it founded?
The oldest family business in the UK is R.J.Balson and Sons Ltd, a family butchers which was established in 1515AD in Bridport in Dorset. It has been owned and managed by 25 generations of the same family.
(Grid Reference SY46199302)
The Record Locations
You can use the Grid References provided to locate record locations on a map at www.streetmap.co.uk