Hunter-gatherers sought

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IN the same way Indiana Jones was famous for his attempts to track down historically important artefacts, Borderers are being invited to become ancient tree hunters.

This Sunday sees the launch of the Borders Heritage Tree Trail at Kailzie Gardens near Peebles, where experienced conservationist Diane Bennett will host a special tree hunt.

The Walkerburn resident has put together a colourful brochure with a map and information on the region’s most spectacular, oldest and most interesting trees on behalf of the Borders Forest Trust.

These include the famous Capon tree at Jedburgh, one of the last surviving trees of Jed-Forest, and the Glenkinnon oak at Clovenfords, believed to be more than 300 years old.

Diane has also noted the yew at Dryburgh Abbey, thought to have been planted by monks in 1136, predating the abbey and making it nearly 900 years old.

And a lone ash at St Mary’s Kirkyard, Selkirk – believed to be a descendant of the original Ettrick Forest – is among the hundreds of elderly trees in the map.

Despite many of these trees now showing their age, Diane says that merely adds to their beauty.

She said: “The Borders is home to trees of great heritage value. Some are very old with knotted, gnarled trunks and twisted, hollowed torsos that capture the imagination.

“Trees can shrink as they get older, much like humans, but that is not a sad thing, as they can provide a magnificent habitat for other creatures.

“Many of these have fabulous stories linked to the folklore and culture of the communities in which they stand.”

Diane was assisted in producing the brochure by “countless” volunteers over a year.

But the time-consuming exercise was worth it, she says, having worked in conservation for 20 years.

“It certainly was enjoyable,” Diane told us.

“A lot of information already existed on some of the more renowned trees, so it was a case of pulling together the information for the trail.

“There were some other new finds which didn’t make it into the leaflet but can be found on the Ancient Tree Hunt website. I was called out to a house near Selkirk to see a magnificent Ash which had barn owls nesting in it and there was another which a young boy called his castle because he could walk right into it, with a ‘turret’ at the top.”

The Ancient Tree Hunt (ATH) began in 2004 and has so far collected more than 25,000 trees, but aims to record at least 100,000 ancient trees throughout the UK by the end of this year.

Although the Borders ancient tree map is a chance to celebrate the area’s most eyecatching and significant species, there are other reasons for its publication.

“Knowing where these special trees are is the first step towards identifying their conservation needs to ensure their survival for generations to come,” says Diane. Sunday’s tree hunt takes place at 10am and 2pm at Kailzie Gardens. Diane adds: “Sunday’s event will show people how to become an ancient tree hunter and how easy it is to record and upload them onto the website.”

To see all the trees recorded in the Borders, and to make your own submission, visit www.ancienttreehunt.org.uk