Blenheim Palace woodland revealed as ancient tree hotspot

The grounds of Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire contain the largest collection of ancient oak trees in Europe, according to a survey by a Kew academic.

The estate was designed by Capability Brown in the early 18th century, but he left a 50-hectare woodland known as the High Park untouched.

The significance of its trees was unearthed by Dutch-born Aljos Farjon, formerly head of the temperate section of Kew's herbarium until his retirement in 2006, where he remains an an honorary research associate.

He told the Express: "High Park has as many as 60 ancient oaks, which is not surpassed by any other site I know, but more interestingly these trees could go back further than the middle ages as they were not planted and simply grew. There is also no other place in the country which has so many nine-metre [diameter] trees - there are four alive and one standing dead."

He added: "The fact this landscape is important has been known for some time, but as High Park was not open to the public there has been no real investigation and I am the first person to study it."

Farjon made the discovery while researching a book, Ancient Oaks in the English Landscape, due to be published next year.

An exhibition currently under way at the privately owned World Heritage Site to mark the 300th anniversary of Capability Brown's birth includes a recreation of one of the landscaper's "tree-moving machines" based on a single surviving image.

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