Ancient tree decorated with bunting

Add your voice for better protection for our oldest and most special trees

The UK’s oldest trees are internationally important.  The UK has more ancient oak trees than the rest of Europe combined – and a duty of care for these national treasures. 

As a society we protect castles, ancient monuments, art, endangered wildlife. But somehow, we’ve missed our oldest and most important trees – even though some are more than a thousand years old. 

Right now, ancient trees have no automatic right of protection in the UK. Change is needed in each UK country - either to improve our current policies and laws or to introduce new ones. 

In each UK country policies and legislation for planning, farming and nature recovery are being developed. 

We want to see, for each country in the UK:

  1. Legally protected heritage status for some of our most ancient and important trees
  2. Strong, consistent policy protection for old trees
  3. More support for land managers and farmers to care for ancient and veteran trees

Our living legends are all around us. They’re the 200-year-old trees greening our housing estates. The 1,000-year-old yew tree standing proud in your local churchyard. Their survival and ongoing conservation must be prioritised and improved. In a climate and nature emergency the avoidable loss of any old and important trees must be prevented.

How we’re using your support for trees

Power to make changes is in the hands of governments across the UK. We’re already using the petition to push governments to improve tree protection at all levels. 

In England better protection has been debated by the House of Lords and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Woods and Trees.

In Scotland the Scottish Government has improved planning policy, boosting protection for ancient and veteran trees and ancient woods.

In Wales the Welsh Government is reviewing ancient tree and woodland protection and preparing a new Sustainable Farming Scheme. The Well-being of Future Generations Act requires that sustainable development and well-being goals are met, including a resilient and biodiverse natural environment.

In Northern Ireland a supportive Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly is planning a Private Member’s Bill on tree protection. This could be the first step to legal protection for the country's important trees. 

Tell your government to protect our living legends now. 


Legal protection for our very old and special trees

Our very oldest trees are known as ‘ancient’ or ‘veteran’ trees. They have special characteristics which make them vital for nature. Often, they are culturally important too. All ancient trees are centuries old, and the oldest are more than a thousand years old.  

We already protect special places for nature in law. But three quarters of our ancient trees are found outside of legally protected wildlife sites. Instead, they are scattered through the landscape – in hedges, fields and churchyards. Among housing estates, gardens, parks and roadsides. 

Many have owners who care for them. But the lack of systematic protection increases the risks they face. It’s time to apply the same principles of protection that we give to other important parts of life. 

Each UK country is working on nature protection policy. This is a great opportunity to rectify the problems old trees face. Together we can send a clear message about the value nature has in our society and to future generations.

How would a new law work?

We already have laws that apply to shipwrecks and old buildings. In other countries like Poland and Italy, important trees have legal heritage or ‘monument’ status. Alongside experts, we’re analysing mechanisms like these to work out the best way to protect our living legends.

Strong, consistent policy protection for old trees in each country

Government policies should look to back up legal protection for the most important trees and protect all our oldest trees from loss and deterioration. In each UK country, governments are developing policies where there are opportunities to improve tree protection and support the management of old and important trees.

Changes to Tree Preservation Orders would help to better protect important trees, like widening the circumstances when they can be used and stronger deterrents to felling trees with Preservation Orders.  

More support for land managers to care for ancient and veteran trees

Land management systems should help to support tree owners to prolong the life of old trees and the wildlife that relies on them. This includes actions like securing root protection areas around the base of trees, keeping deadwood in place and reducing any threats to the tree from its surroundings. 

Got questions? Email [email protected] 



Stump of a very large felled tree in a building site

Wolstenholme Images / Alamy Stock Photo

(Above) all that remains of a giant redwood, planted in 1842. This tree protected by a Tree Preservation Order, was destroyed by a housing developer who later said the felling had been ‘a mistake’. Their fine was reduced by two thirds on appeal. No protected trees should suffer this fate again. Giant redwoods of this age are just getting started – the premature loss of important urban trees must be avoided at all costs.

Urge UK governments to protect trees


signatures so far 


Tell decision-makers to prevent any loss of our most important and oldest trees. Sign our petition to show that you think important trees deserve special protection - just like other important heritage.

Petition to the UK, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments to protect our most important trees by:

  • Legally protected heritage status for some of our most ancient and important trees
  • Strong, consistent policy protection for old trees  
  • More support for land managers to care for ancient and veteran trees

Add your name