Ben Norwood is a trees and woodlands advisor for the National Trust and has described the importance of his job to Smallholder.

"Some might say being paid to love and care for trees and woodlands in the south west sounds like a pretty near perfect job, and I would have to agree with them," he said.

"I came into my job from a practical angle. I had been working as part of a ranger team for over 10 years and had been given many opportunities to develop my interest in trees and woodlands. My particular interest in managing veteran and ancient trees was ignited after meeting my former property manager, Brian Muelaner, who went on to become ancient tree advisor for the National Trust. He had such an engaging way of talking about old trees, that I couldn’t help not become interested in them.

"After undertaking an MSc in Forestry by distance learning I continued to focus and specialise in tree and woodland management in my role as an area ranger. Keeping my practical skills up, making sure I read up to date research, attending meetings and becoming more involved in organisations such as the Ancient Tree Forum and the Royal Forestry Society. I was always interested to learn new things."

The National Trust cares for some of the UK’s most important trees such as Newton’s Apple, which triggered the great scientist to form his laws of gravity, the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Tree, under which the first trade union was formed, and the original Irish Yew, which has produced every other Irish Yew in the world.

At Knightshayes, near Tiverton, 18 trees have been awarded champion status, including having the tallest Turkey Oak in the country.

In order to qualify for champion status, trees need to be either the tallest or have the widest girth in the UK. A recent survey by the Tree Register of the British Isles discovered that Knightshayes has 16 new National Champion Trees since the last survey in 2011, bringing the total to 18.

At Leigh Woods there are almost 400 veteran trees. The southern part of Leigh Woods was historically wood pasture, where open areas of grassland were interspersed with trees and scrub, the trees were either pollarded regularly or left as maidens.

Pollarding is a traditional management technique of cutting a tree 2-3 metres above the ground out of reach of livestock to produce new small branches, which can then be harvested for animal feed and firewood. It is a practice which has generally lapsed across the country and has resulted in the trees at Leigh Woods becoming very large and impressive.

Old trees have no formal recognition (unlike listed buildings), so the Trust’s survey, along with work being carried out by the Woodland Trust and the Ancient Tree Forum, will raise the profile of these species-rich habitats which are examples of living archaeology.

‘Looking towards the future occupies the thoughts of many people who work with trees. With climate change, the spread of diseases such as Ash Dieback and Phytophphora, how we manage our trees and woodlands is becoming increasingly difficult. What is comforting though is that the National Trust is not alone in these challenges. My job so far has allowed me to work with National Trust staff and people from many other organisations that are all thinking creatively about these challenges’.