Trees come in all shapes and sizes but I particularly love big, tall, straight, round ones and my favourite are beech trees. There are wonderful examples of this type of beech throughout the UK but Cirencester Park woods have some of the finest anywhere. This upright form of beech with lovely clean stems and no branches until well over half the total tree height are only really found in woods where they have grown very close together and have put their energy into growing upwards towards the available light and lower side branches have been shaded out.
In the past, foresters may also have planted faster growing trees, normally conifers, amongst the beech to encourage this upright growth and removed/thinned out these when they were interfering with the development of the desired beech trees. The ultimate aim of this practice was to create trees with the maximum amount of clean useable timber and monetary value. Unfortunately despite the many years of costly expert management in producing this timber its current value does not reflect this investment but we do have these magnificent trees to walk amongst and enjoy for their architectural beauty which also has many benefits including contributing to individual and social wellbeing. People who plant and manage trees normally have a specific aim they are trying to achieve but by the time the trees reach maturity values have often changed but the trees still contribute to life's requirements in different ways, possibly not even thought of centuries before - beech trees such as the one in the photograph must be at least 150+ years old. We must appreciate these trees now because of climate change and other threats such as the bark stripping habit of the introduced Grey squirrel, it is sadly very unlikely that beech trees will be able to develop into such wonderful specimens in the future.
My personal reason for loving such trees is because I was brought up in a small village in the Buckinghamshire surrounded by Chiltern beechwoods and my father worked in furniture factories in High Wycombe using timber from these.
(Individual trees grown in open places like parks tend to grow outwards and have much lower and bigger branches unless they are pruned off which creates a very different tree form with other values such as increased benefits for wildlife and potentially longer life.)
Ray Hawes, National Trust Retired Head of Trees and Woods