Major Oak at Sherwood Forest to be featured on tonight’s Springwatch

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Sherwood Forest will be featured on tonight’s BBC Springwatch programme, as the team join staff to find out how technology is helping to care for ancient trees.

A Sharon Hosegood Associates, arboricultural consultants were brought in to scan the roots of the Major Oak at Sherwood, to help staff responsible for the future care of this legendary tree to find out more about this much-loved giant.

The root scan involves using specialist radar equipment, which scans the root system, and picks up healthy roots of around 2cm in diameter.

Andy Skinner, RSPB ecologist said the work was commissioned to help identify if there are any obvious health problems with the tree, and to gather information which will help in its future care.

The Major Oak has its own management plan, which Andy has been working to develop with staff at Sherwood.

The RSPB and its partners will be responsible for the great oak, and the rest of the forest and National Nature Reserve once they open their new visitor centre in August.

Andy said: ““The team caring for the Major Oak has reported changes in its leaves over the last couple of years. Obviously, the tree is around 1,000 years old, and age will play a part in this, but still, we wanted to see if the roots would give us any further clues about the tree’s health,”

Izi Banton, Sherwood site manager said: “We have noticed changes in leaf size and colour over the past few years and the root radar is part of an ongoing  process to try and identify any underlying causes other than old age.”

The area around the Major Oak has been fenced off since the 1970s, but prior to this, since Victorian times, the tree has been a huge tourist attraction, and people would walk all around it, touch it, and even climb inside it.

This intensive footfall compacted the soil around the tree, stopping water getting very far into the ground, or being able to drain away, and this affected the fungi crucial to the root system.

Andy said: “Before the scan, we didn’t know exactly where the roots were. This may sound strange, but there’s only so much you can find out below ground without this kind of technology.

“We don’t know if they are sitting near the top in very compacted soil, or if they are much lower, or if they have moved off to one side where they’ve found better conditions.”

Watch BBC2’s Springwatch tonight (Wednesday, June 13) at 8pm to find out what secrets the Major Oak revealed about its health and the future of this legendary tree.