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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 April 2006, 14:05 GMT 15:05 UK
South Wales' oldest trees located
Oak at Penrhos, Monmouthshire
An oak aged at least 800 was found at an orchard
More than 350 of the oldest trees in south Wales have been found and recorded by volunteers after an appeal by a wildlife trust.

The hunt for "veteran" trees was launched by the Gwent Wildlife Trust last Autumn.

Among the oldest trees found in the survey was an 800-year-old oak at a cider orchard in Monmouthshire.

The trust hopes to record the whereabouts of the trees to protect them from being destroyed in future.

Veteran trees from larger species such as oak or chestnut can usually be spotted if the girth of its trunk measures more than 3.7m, indicating the tree is more than 500 years old.

Trust conservation officer Steven Rogers said pubs often acted as clues to their whereabouts since many were named after trees such as Royal Oak and Chequers (the common name for the now-rare service tree).

He added that it was important to save the trees as they provided to habitats for creatures such as bees, woodpeckers and bats and also provided a "spiritual" connection to the countryside.

It's important to save them because they are the oldest living things on the planet
Steven Rogers, Gwent Wildlife Trust

Mr Rogers said: "There is increasing concern as more and more of them are being lost to new roads, building developments and intensive agriculture.

"It's important to save them because they are the oldest living things on the planet.

"They are part of people's subconscious image of what the landscape should look like."

Since last autumn, more than 40 volunteers have taken part in the survey and between them they found more than 350 veteran trees across the Gwent Wildlife Trust area - covering from the Rhymney Valley to the English border and from the Brecon Beacon to Newport.

Oak at Clytha Park, near Abergavenny
The trees provide habitat for many species of wildlife

Three of the largest and oldest trees discovered so far are a yew at Mamhilad, near Pontypool, with a girth of 11.65m, an oak at Llantilio Crossenny, in Monmouthshire, with a girth of 10m and an oak at Wonastow, near Monmouth, with a girth of 10.65m.

All three are believed to be between 600 and 800 years old.

But the oldest tree found by volunteers during the survey was the ancient oak at a cider orchard in Penrhos, Monmouthshire.

The tree has been initially dated at about 800 years old but Mr Rogers said it could be more than 1,000 years old.

The tree is still alive and producing new leaves every spring.

The survey was the trust's first recording veteran trees in their area.

Mr Rogers said: "There is a high proportion of old trees in south east Wales because of the large amount of park land.

"These trees have been looked after for hundreds of years."

The results of the survey have been sent to the South East Wales Biological Records Centre in Cardiff which will collate the information and provide planning authorities with details of the ancient trees so they can be protected when new developments are proposed.

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