Kingley Vale nature reserve is a SSSI and a SAC for its yew woodland and is owned and managed by Natural England. A site visit was set up with the Kingley Vale team and a small, focused group of tree experts including yew specialists Peter Norton (Ancient Yew Group) and Hugh Milner (Head Forester), along with Dr David Lonsdale (former Lead Researcher at Forest Research), Ted Green (OBE – co-founder of ATF), Caroline Davis (Ancient Tree Forum), J-P Berry (Guildford Council Senior Trees Officer), Jon Stokes (The Tree Council) and Treecosystems’ Geoff Monck.
Similar signs of increased tree stress were identified in many of the yews at Kingley Vale, as at other yew sites in the south of England. It was very useful to discuss these amongst the group out in the field.
After the site visit, a number of outcomes came out of the round table discussion:
- An expanded research consortium would be formed called the Yew Health Working Group. The group will further investigate apparent increased tree stress and possible deterioration in the physiological condition of yews across a number of sites in the south of England, and possibly further afield. The consortium represents an alliance between the teams and landowners behind three key ancient and veteran yew populations in England – Kingley Vale (Natural England), Newlands Corner/Merrow Downs (Albury Estate and Guildford Borough Council) and Great Yews (Longford Estate), along with the academic lead Myerscough University College. Geoff Monck from Treecosystems is the overall group lead.
- The consortium will continue with and possibly expand the current pilot research project underway at Newlands Corner.
- In the meantime, the consortium will seek to set up some case funded PhDs in conjunction with an industry partner and an additional academic partner.
- Discussion of the various indicators of increased yew tree stress and relevant site conditions observed during the day helped the group to formulate hypotheses to be tested by the research. These build upon the work and observations already done in this area by Geoff Monck in relation to both declining yews and oak decline.
- Treecosystems will continue to support managers of all three sites with identifying and addressing tree stress factors that can be managed. At Newlands Corner and Kingley Vale, visitor pressure and the resulting soil compaction damage are key threats requiring urgent intervention.