Advice on veteran trees

The UK has the greatest concentration of veteran trees in Europe, many over a thousand years old. These stalwarts of our ancient woodland and parks are part of our natural heritage and like most landowners you will want to conserve them. At Thomson, our tree experts have the knowledge and skills to manage veteran tree health, and their surrounding environment, to ensure their continued survival.

Definition of a veteran tree

A veteran tree can be defined as ‘a tree that is of interest biologically, culturally or aesthetically because of its age, size or condition’ (Ancient Tree Forum). They are extremely vulnerable to changes in the environment around them; sensitive management is therefore essential. We can provide assessments of veteran trees following the ‘Specialist Survey Method’ and provide detailed reporting on the appropriate management required to ensure they continue their important contribution to the environment for as long as possible.

Importance of veteran trees

Britain has the largest number of veteran trees in Europe. They provide habitat for many rare species of invertebrates (particularly beetles), bryophytes (mosses, liverworts etc), lichens and fungi.


Many veterans are former pollards which are a reminder of our cultural past. Pollards were ‘working trees’, harvested like coppice stools but above the reach of browsing mammals. The harvested material was used for firewood, building materials and animal fodder.

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Veteran trees

Management techniques for veteran trees

There are a number of techniques that can be employed to properly care for populations of veteran trees. These include:

  • Crown reduction – to reduce the ‘sail’ area of large specimens in order to reduce the risk of windthrow
  • Veteranisation – the process of promoting features associated with veteran trees on young trees to maintain habitat continuity
  • Repollarding – delicate process of reinstating pollarding for trees that were once managed using this technique but have not been cut for many years
  • Haloing – the removal of younger trees surrounding veterans that are beginning to out-compete them
  • Coronet cuts – pruning cuts that imitate natural limb failures, thus encouraging deadwood to form
  • Restanding – re-erecting fallen mature or veteran trees to increase the volume of standing deadwood in an area

Other types of veteran trees

As well as pollards there are several other forms of veteran represented in the UK. These include:

  • Maidens – trees that have not been subject to heavy pruning as a management technique
  • Coppards – former coppice stools that have been pollarded
  • Shredded – trees that have had lateral branches originating from the main stem harvested on a rotation
To talk to our team of experts about how we can help you with your veteran trees, please get in touch today.

Further reading and related articles

Case Study

Tree constraints in development

  • Arboriculture
  • Highways