Tower block living for minibeasts.
The word ‘monolith’ usually refers to a massive stone or rock. When we talk about a monolith in the world of trees, we mean a very old specimen which may be in its last years, or even dead. Like a great rock, a tree monolith may be a feature of the landscape for a very long time.
On the north-west side of the boating lake and to the east of the Wildlife and Waterfowl Centre stands a grand old willow monolith. Nearby, on the other side of the path from the lake, there’s an ash in a similar state.
These dignified veterans still show some new growth each year, but they are amongst the oldest trees in the park. Old trees are unusual here because before the park was designed in the early 19th century, the area was largely farmland, and kept clear of trees.
A monolith can provide a wonderful habitat for wildlife - it’s almost like a tower block for insects, birds and bats, and it’s an important growing place for many kinds of fungi and lichen. As monoliths provide a different environment to fallen trunks and deadwood piles, we manage ours by removing the upper branches so the trees have less weight to support, and can remain standing for as long as possible.