These are pictures from my recent walking holiday in north of Majorca. As an ex forester I was blown away by the shear number of ancient trees.

These first few were tiny compared to the really ancient ones I saw later on. They look dead but they are not.

nice to see these old trees are valued, roads, gardens, buildings are all made to go around the ancient trees.

this picture is in to show that the olive trees are pollards, that is for hundreds of years they have had their branches cut off just above grazing animals head height. Note that not all the branches are cut in one go, one or two are left on, this is less fo a shock to the tree and allows it to grow back more easily.
the olives grow half way up the hills you can see them in the middle ground of this photo, higher up is holm oak woodland and lower on the plains is cereals, hay and almond trees.
almond trees with flower rich meadow
we saw a lot of these trees, they grew both amongst the almonds and with the olives they had big pea like pods, we found out later  they are carob used for making a chocolate like confection.

low down in the few damp river valleys plane trees grew and they went up as straight and clean without branches as I have ever seen.

a charcoal burners camp

High in the mountains above the olives  are almost pure holm oak woodlands and every few hundred yards you come across one of these charcoal burners camps. Up to the 1930’s everyone in Majorca cooked on charcoal and it was made here. The circualr flat area is where the wood was piled in a dome then covered over with sifted earth. The fire would burn for days before it was all turned to charcoal. The charcoal burners lived on site alongside each circular hearth  is a small circular hut and quite often a bread oven. The woodlands would be cut in rotation and keep regrowing, true sustainable energy. From the ring counts I did it seemed to me that the last cutting of all the woodlands happened in the 1940’s presumably during the war, whether they burnt for charcoal then I do not know, it would certainly make extracting the produce easier.

charcoal hearth in goat grazed woodland

 The interesting thing here to me as a forester is to see the effect of high goat population on a woodland. I have seen high deer population but this is incredible. There is barely a leaf showing below my head height, no grown flora whatsoever, no regeneration of your trees from seed, the trees are not old yet so this woodland is OK for another 50-100 years but at some stage it would benefit a lot from having all the goats removed for 10 years.

now lets get on to the real good stuff,  in a few days walking in Majorca I saw several thousand of ancient olives. These trees are locally abundant but globally exceedingly rare. The UK has a remarkable population of ancient trees too but most of Europe has very few trees over 200 years old. These olives being pollards on very dry soil will have grown incredibly slowly and yet have reached a great girth most of them will be well in excess of 500 years old and some could be over 1000. To me the though of a living thing over 1000 years old that has been dependant for all that time on regular human management is simply incredible. If you stopped cutting the tops of these trees the branches would grow very large then pull the hollow old trunks apart, they have to continually managed to survive. 1000 years of making Olive oil has kept them going as they are. Here are a load of pictures they are simply incredible.
ancient olive

this pair of ancient olives were simply huge, mind-blowing to think how many generations have come and pruned these trees and gathered and pressed the oil.

 Here we saw how they manage the olives, it was of particular interest to me since I used to work managing ancient pollards for the National Trust. No one knew if the old oaks hornbeams, beech etc were cut in one go or a few branches cut at a time, it was simply never recorded. With these olives the practice is clearly to remove a few branches every few years leaving a few branches on, the thickest any branch is allowed to grow to before being cut is around the thickness of a mans leg.

and lets finish with the biggest of the lot what an incredible living organism.

Author Robin Wood

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