From mighty oaks grow historic wooden ships

A small piece of oak from HMS Victory is on display at Chelsea Flower Show this week as a major new campaign to protect the UK’s mighty oak trees from threats including pests and diseases has been officially launched by Lord Gardiner, Defra’s Biosecurity Minister.

The Action Oak Partnership which is made up of charities, environmental organisations and landowners  is seeking to raise £15 million for research and monitoring to help safeguard the 121 million oaks in UK woodlands. Its stall at the show has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s discovery gold medal.

Arabella Roberts, Historic Ships Manager from The National Museum of the Royal Navy, which owns HMS Victory said: “This piece of oak was removed from HMS Victory in a past restoration project. It symbolises the ongoing challenges which were and still are faced when maintaining a historic wooden ship in the open environment.

“We chose this piece for Action Oak because it clearly shows the damage small, inconspicuous insects and pests can do to a piece of oak. Just like on living oak trees, these pests are hugely damaging to the strength and wellbeing of good quality hard wood. Through specialist training and ongoing research partnerships the National Museum’s conservators are developing new methods for understanding and reducing the impact these pests have on historic timbers.”

Work by the Action Oak partnership will include capturing the first detailed picture of the current health of oaks trees, helping to gain a greater understanding of how to preserve their iconic position in our landscape for generations to come.

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HMS Hermes returning from the Falklands