Talking about oak trees at Chelsea Flower Show – new Action Oak campaign

Today we’re at the Chelsea Flower Show to highlight the plight of the UK’s mighty oak tree. We’re there as a partner in the new Action Oak campaign – so what’s it all about?

Yesterday a major new campaign was launched to protect the UK’s oak trees from threats like pests and diseases. The Action Oak Partnership, officially launched at the 2018 Chelsea Flower Show, is made up of charities, environmental organisations and landowners, all seeking to raise £15 million for research and monitoring to help safeguard the 121 million oaks in UK woodlands.

The Quarry Oak, a one thousand year old sessile oak tree, at Croft Castle, Herefordshire ©National Trust Images/Robert Morris

What’s harming our oak trees?

Environmental pressures, such as climate change, pollution and drought, can make our oak trees more vulnerable to pests and diseases. Oak processionary moth, acute oak decline, xylella, root-attacking species of honey fungus and powdery mildews are all threatening the future of majestic oak trees. We need to know more about these threats so we can help protect the nation’s woodlands.

Here at the National Trust we have some iconic oak trees within our care. Calke Abbey has two magnificent gnarly 1,000-year-old oaks, and another at 800 years old. We also care for the tallest English oak tree in the UK at Stourhead, standing a mighty 40.4 metres high. It’s not only the show-stopping oaks that matter though. Oaks provide a vital life support for wildlife. An oak tree supports some 284 species of insects and 324 species of lichen, and provides food and habitat for birds and mammals.

Those of us involved in the Action Oak Campaign all passionately believe in finding ways to best deal with the threats posed by tree disease and are working together to protect our oak trees for future generations to marvel at and enjoy, just as we do.

How will the campaign help?

The campaign contributes to the Government’s 25-year Environment Plan by helping to strengthen biosecurity and build resilience to protect oaks. It also builds on the £37 million the Government is already investing in tree and plant health research.

Members of the Action Oak Partnership are pooling knowledge and resources across the group to:

  • Work with owners and managers of oak trees and woodlands to help to protect the trees from a range of threats
  • Fund research to improve our understanding of the threats to our oak trees and to inform best management practices
  • Use established professional and citizen science networks to record changes in the distribution, age and health of our oak trees to identify priority areas for action
  • Encourage organisations to join the Action Oak Partnership and people to support Action Oak.

Who’s involved in the campaign?

The Action Oak Partnership includes The Woodland Trust, Woodland Heritage, National Trust, The Duchy of Cornwall, Forest Research, Royal Botanical Gardens Kew, the Forestry Commission and the Northern Ireland Forest Service, and is supported by Defra, Scottish, Wales and Northern Ireland governments.

What’s happening at Chelsea?

Ray Hawes, our Head of Forestry, is there at Chelsea today manning the campaign’s stand – which won a prestigious Discovery gold medal yesterday.

The stand was designed and built by staff at the Animal and Plant Health Agency and examines the cultural and environmental importance of our oak trees as well as the threats that they face. The display takes visitors on a journey through the life of an oak tree, gives visitors the unique opportunity to observe examples of pests and diseases up close, and there’s even a piece of oak from HMS Victory, the world’s most famous warship.  If you’re at Chelsea, go take a look – we’re at GPA 104.

Action Oak has already attracted support from foundations, businesses, artists and celebrities including:

  • Dame Judi Dench, a well-known tree lover – a 3D scan of her favourite oak tree which is displayed on the Action Oak stand at Chelsea
  • British ceramicist Emma Bridgewater has created a bespoke Action Oak mug which will go on sale later in the year in support of Partnership, with a portion of the proceeds going towards Action Oak research
  • The Monument Trust, one of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts has donated a further £500,000 towards research into Acute Oak Decline.
  • The JABBS Foundation, a private family charitable foundation based in Birmingham has pledged over £565,000 towards research examining oak tree defences at the University of Birmingham for Forest Research.

Find out more about the campaign and how you can help on the website –

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