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A path through Loughton camp, covered in by trees.

​A path through Loughton Camp, home to many of Epping Forest's pollards

What is pollarding?

Pollarding is a harvesting system in which the upper branches of a tree are removed for use. This encourages the tree to produce new growth on a regular basis, to the desired thickness. This sustainable supply of wood was used for hundreds of years as fuel and building materials.

Traditional pollarding and re-pollarding techniques are undertaken on Epping Forest by highly trained staff to try and preserve the veteran trees. There are over 50,000 of these ancient trees and without such attention their crowns would eventually become too heavy and they will topple over or split, leading to their death.

It is the long-lived nature of ancient trees, together with the nooks and crannies that result from old age, that enable them to support such a wide range of insects, other invertebrates, fungi, mosses and lichens. Some do, of course, eventually die but even then the dead wood provides valuable habitat for all sorts of organisms. For this reason dead wood is generally left where it falls in the Forest.

Epping Forest has more veteran and ancient trees than any other site in the UK and contains over 85% of Britain’s remaining veteran beech pollards.

Thanks to the Heritage Lottery-funded Branching Out Project - now concluded - a great deal of work has been conducted in recent years to protect these veteran trees to ensure that Epping Forest is internationally-renowned for its ancient pollards throughout the future.

Arborist working on Epping Forest

​An Epping Forest arborist working on a veteran tree

What is a veteran tree?

When a tree reaches maturity and has important habitat features - dead wood, hollowing, loose bark and holes – it’s classed as a veteran tree. Birds, bats and small mammals; fungi, mosses and lichen; beetles and flies - all of them depend upon the nooks, crannies and roots of old trees.

Many of the UK’s rarest wildlife species need veteran trees and, as such, a lot of them are only found at places like Epping Forest, where people have managed the site continuously and extended the trees’ lives. Some of these rare species may be small and obscure – the plight of the saproxylic beetle doesn’t get a lot of press – but they’re important.

Epping Forest's native trees

While the forest is dominated by oak, beech and hornbeam, many other species of trees grow here: wild service, birch, ash, field maple, sycamore, crab apple, cherry, crack and goat willow, aspen, poplar, pear, rowan, sweet chestnut, hazel, alder, holm oak, London plane, and elm.

Epping Forest's non-native trees

In areas that have a designed landscape history, such as Wanstead Park, non-native trees can also be seen such as red oak, wellingtonia, corsican pine, larch, copper beech, Japanese maple, southern beech.

27 March 2012
Last Modified:
30 August 2019