The world's oldest elm tree needs saving - and it's in Sussex. Now, Sussex gets some mighty high winds now and then - all part of being a coastal county on an island. And some recent, hefty gusts caused two large branches to break off one of two 400-year-old elms in Preston Park, Brighton. Tree surgeons rushed in to try to salvage it and make it safe; it seems the rest of the tree is in good health and it would be wonderful if the fallen wood could be made into some lasting legacies for Preston Park, such as benches or sculptures (or even sculptures that double as benches).
This news inspired me to find out more about the Preston Twins, as the pair of ancient elms is known. I love trees, in fact I would probably hug one if I had to, especially when the Woodland Trust tells us that at least 15 ancient woodlands in East Sussex alone are under threat from various quarters. These two elms are notable not just for their grand age but also for simply being there, given how many have been lost to Dutch elm disease. Imagine: they would have been planted before the Pilgrim Fathers landed in America, when Shakespeare was a new name on the theatre circuit and James I was king. Now they're home to a colony of white-letter hairstreak butterflies, which need elms in order to survive and are therefore struggling as a species due to the ravages of the aforementioned destructive beetle. I'm sure if you live or have walked around Preston Park you will be familiar with the Preston Twins, so I'm glad to have finally caught up. They are surely worth a visit.
These grand old residents have seen so much, given pleasure to so many people, and provided a home for another endangered species. I hope they survive for many more years.