When I say “The Trees of Sherwood Forest” I really mean the ancient oaks. At the moment when people quote a figure they seem happy with the figure 997 – 450 of which are living. About 250 of the 450 are healthy and 200 are in various states of declining health.
They say an oak spends 300 years growing, 300 years in maturity and 300 years dying, so this isn’t necessarily a cause for concern, though in 2007 they did lose seven trees – including four in one particularly blustery night.
There is a plantation in Dorset that contains 260 saplings grown from acorns of the Major Oak, but it was only planted in 2003, so they are still 287 years from maturity. I know that you have to take a long view when dealing with trees, but planting for a time 300 years from now is hard to take in.
Oaks support more species than any other tree, being host to around 350 species of insect and 30 species of lichen. The insects are food for birds: acorns feed jays, badgers, deer and squirrels (and, traditionally, pigs) and the flowers and buds are the foodplants of the caterpillars of the purple hairstreak.
Even the dead trees provide habitat for insects, plus nesting and roosting sites for birds and bats.
The most famous of the ancient oaks is the Major Oak, voted Britain’s Favourite Tree in 2002 and England’s Tree of the Year in 2014. It is something of a celebrity and will always be associated with Robin Hood. The story that he hid inside it is unlikely – at an estimated age of 800 – 1,000 years it was, at best, a young tree in Robin Hood’s time, and possibly just an acorn. Such are legends…
Here is a link to a site detailing some of the other famous oaks of Sherwood.