Campaign to protect UK’s oak trees launched at Chelsea Flower Show

An oak tree at the Devil’s Punchbowl at Hindhead, Surrey (Chris Ison/PA) Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

A new campaign to protect the UK’s oak trees from threats including pests and diseases has been launched at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Complete with celebrity backing, the Action Oak Partnership – made up of charities, environmental organisations and landowners – aims to raise £15 million for research and monitoring to help safeguard the 121 million oaks in UK woodlands.

Lord Gardiner, Biosecurity Minister at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), officially launched the campaign on Monday.

Work will include getting a detailed picture of the current health of oaks trees, helping to gain a better understanding of how to preserve them for decades to come.

The campaign contributes to the Government’s 25-year Environment Plan, which was launched by Prime Minister Theresa May in January.

Oak facts

  • There are more than 120 million oak trees in UK woodlands, with almost one million in London alone.

  • There are 49,000 ancient, veteran and notable oak trees recorded in the UK’s Ancient Tree Inventory.

  • One of the oldest oaks in Britain, the Bowthorpe oak in Lincolnshire, is estimated to be around 1,000 years old.

  • The UK has more ancient native oaks than all other EU countries combined.

  • Oak trees are the UK’s most important tree for biodiversity, supporting more than 600 species of insect and lichen alone.

Action Oak has many supporters including The Prince of Wales, Dame Judi Dench, and Emma Bridgewater – who has created a bespoke mug which will go on sale later this year, with a portion of the proceeds going towards Action Oak research.

Lord Gardiner said: “Protecting our country from pests and diseases, so our trees and plants can thrive in the future, is a priority for this Government and we are proud to be backing this campaign.

“The Action Oak Partnership provides a one-off opportunity to shape the future of our oak trees and make sure they continue to have a place in our landscape.

“The combined knowledge of all the organisations involved will be vital in protecting these majestic trees, contributing to help us be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it.”

The Action Oak Partnership includes the Woodland Trust, Woodland Heritage, National Trust, the Duchy of Cornwall, Forest Research, Royal Botanical Gardens Kew, the Forestry Commission and the Northern Ireland Forest Service, and is supported by Defra, and the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments.