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The University of Southampton

Trees ‘map’ to help protect England’s historic gardens

Published: 23 January 2018
Thame Park
Registered garden, Thame Park. Credit: Historic England

A new project to help safeguard trees in England’s historic parks and gardens is being launched by the University of Southampton in partnership with Historic England.

The study will examine the vulnerability of some of our most treasured green spaces to the spread of invasive pests and disease from surrounding landscapes. It aims to identify the range of tree species found in each registered park and garden in the country and assess the level of threat they are under.

Dr Julia Branson of GeoData, a research and consultancy group based at the University, explains: “Historic gardens are home to a diverse range of trees and are an important part of our heritage. By compiling a central database of information about the location, dominance and importance of different species, we aim to provide garden-owners with valuable information which could help them make important decisions about conservation.”

There are over 1,650 registered parks and gardens in England. Established in the 1980s, the register is held by Historic England and celebrates noteworthy designed landscapes. The National Heritage List for England can be freely searched online and includes all registered landscapes as well as listed buildings, scheduled monuments, protected wrecks and battlefields. The majority of protected parks and gardens started life as the grounds of private houses, but public parks, cemeteries and even some hospital gardens are included. Many of these green spaces are the property of major landowners or charities, but others are in private ownership.

The project team is contacting as many owners as possible to encourage them to share their data, with the aim of constructing a ‘treescape’ map – visualising and quantifying information about the risks to tree collections and important tree features, such as clumps, historic avenues and veteran trees, some dating back hundreds of years. Risks to trees will vary greatly, depending on the species, location and prevalence of disease and types of pest in the surrounding area.

Dr Branson says: “Some of the larger organisations and charities hold quite comprehensive information about the specimens they care for, but we also want to hear from smaller, private owners of registered gardens so we can include their collections too. By bringing all this information together in a single database, we can help owners make informed decisions about strategies to minimise any harm to their trees.”

Alan Cathersides, Historic England’s National Landscape Adviser, says: “With increasing concerns about alien pests and diseases entering the UK, we are looking for the best ways to help owners and managers protect these important historic landscapes. The first step is to build up a picture of the range of tree species found in protected parks and gardens across the country.”

The research team will be circulating questionnaires to as many landowners as possible, but would also like to hear from anyone managing a registered park or garden, if they haven’t already been contacted, by emailing


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