Conservationists and local businesses join forces to protect Bowland's landmark trees

The Seafood Pub Companys Nina Finn plants the first sapling for Champion Bowlands Landmark Trees initiative outside the Assheton Arms in Downham watched by (from left to right): Sandra Silk, Paul Reynolds, Issie Kenyon, Robin Gray, Lady Clitheroe, Mike Pugh and Hetty Byrne.
The Seafood Pub Companys Nina Finn plants the first sapling for Champion Bowlands Landmark Trees initiative outside the Assheton Arms in Downham watched by (from left to right): Sandra Silk, Paul Reynolds, Issie Kenyon, Robin Gray, Lady Clitheroe, Mike Pugh and Hetty Byrne.
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Lord and Lady Clitheroe joined local conservationists to plant a tree in the centre of Downham to launch Champion Bowland’s Landmark Trees initiative.

The newly planted field maple replaces an old beech tree in the grounds of Downham Hall, which was lost in the “Beast from the East” storm last year.

This new addition to the village centre takes pride of place beside the old stocks, just a stone’s throw from the Assheton Arms, whose owners – the Seafood Pub Company – are the first official sponsors of the Landmark Trees initiative.

Many of Bowland’s beautiful old trees are nearing the end of their lives and in order to safeguard the unique character of the Bowland landscape, Champion Bowland and the Forest of Bowland AONB Partnership are acting now to ensure successor trees are ready.

These “Landmark Trees” could be found in hedgerows, parkland, farmland or on a village green and may be native and non-native species. Wherever they are, they are important to people as well as to the landscape and provide a living link to the “forest” of Bowland in the AONB’s name.

Conservation charity Champion Bowland is now seeking help from the public and corporate sponsors to identify suitable trees and plan for replacements to be established before their predecessors succumb to old age. Participating businesses can nominate Landmark Trees in their neighbourhood and also opt to plant and safeguard new trees.

The costs of establishing and maintaining Landmark Trees can be raised through visitor-giving, where customers of local businesses are invited to donate funds in order to help care for the landscapes they love.

Bowland AONB development and funding officer Robin Gray said: “Veteran trees are an essential element of the ancient Forest of Bowland. Often centuries old, these venerable old oaks, beeches, sycamores and ashes are as rooted in the landscape as the fells and the rivers that flow between them.

“But these local landmarks won’t last forever. We’ve already lost dozens of these distinctive trees to damaging storms and some of our native species are threatened by diseases such as ash dieback (chalara). The Landmark Trees scheme is our way of planning a woodland succession for the Forest of Bowland and ensuring the next generation of mature trees are already established before their forbears are lost through old age, disease or storm damage.

“It’s been great working with Downham Estate and the Assheton Arms and we’re also very grateful for support from Ribble Valley Borough Council in helping to get this first project off the ground.”

Managing director of the Seafood Pub Company Jocelyn Neve said: “It’s wonderful to be the launch sponsor of Champion Bowland’s Landmark Trees initiative. At the Seafood Pub Company, we’ve always believed in investing for the long term and when it comes to preserving the natural environment, we are proud to be planting the next generation of the Forest of Bowland’s Landmark Trees.

“You can see this lovely young field maple from the Assheton Arms’ terrace and we are looking forward to watching this wonderful addition to Downham’s floral landscape burst into leaf. It will also put on a spectacular show in the autumn as the foliage turns a golden yellow.”

Lord Clitheroe said: “Most of the wonderful beech trees in Downham were planted in the 1790s by my grandfather’s great uncle William Assheton. Before then it was just a moorland village. Now, these ancient trees are such an important feature in the character of the village. We lost the majestic Trafalgar Beech – planted by William to commemorate the famous naval battle in 1805 – to the ‘Beast from the East’ last year, so it’s wonderful that Champion Bowland and the Seafood Pub Company have committed to invest in planting the next generation of landmark trees on the Downham Estate.”

Chairman of Champion Bowland Mike Pugh said: “As a charity that was set up to help sustain the Forest of Bowland, Champion Bowland is only too happy to be part of the Landmark Trees Scheme, which is all about investing for the long term in replacing prominent trees as they approach the end of their lives.

“We would be very happy to hear from anybody seeking to replace a tree that has already been lost or to plan a new legacy for a tree that is starting to show its age, and also from tourism businesses wishing to sponsor a tree.”

To nominate a prominent tree in your area for the Landmark Trees initiative, please contact Sandra Silk at the Forest of Bowland AONB Office on 01200 448000. Potential sponsors can also get in touch with Sandra for an informal chat about the scheme.