Secrets of the dead wood: ancient oaks hold key to new life

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In Richmond Park, decaying logs and mangled old branches are no longer cleared away but valued as habitats for birds and insects

Oaks are the elders of London’s Richmond Park. Some of them are 800 years old and have slumped, bulged and grown cavernous with age. By the time King Charles I visited in 1625 and turned a collection of medieval farms into the royal park we have today, they would have already been veteran trees. A disused medieval track is visible from the way the trees lean into a gentle gully, now grassed over. Richmond Park is something of an open-air museum, and among its most precious exhibits is its dead wood.

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