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Norfolk’s famous tree brought back from jeopardy after health boost

PUBLISHED: 08:46 27 August 2020 | UPDATED: 16:23 27 August 2020

Biochar being added to the soil around the Kett�s Oak by the project team. Picture: Tom Barrett

Biochar being added to the soil around the Kett�s Oak by the project team. Picture: Tom Barrett

Tom Barrett

The tree where Norfolk’s famous rebellion arose has been given a health boost to try and keep it alive for hundreds more years.

Biochar being added to the soil around the Kett’s Oak by the project team. Picture: Tom BarrettBiochar being added to the soil around the Kett’s Oak by the project team. Picture: Tom Barrett

Kett’s Oak, in Hethersett, the renowned meeting place of Robert Kett and his followers in 1549 before their uprising, has been in “progressive decline” prompting experts to intervene to protect the fragile ancient tree.

A recent health investigation of the tree’s structure and roots showed a decline and signs of dieback on some of the branch tips.

The tree’s main branches have also been supported by a wooden frame, cables and braces since the 1960s.

To improve its health, the Broads Authority and Norfolk County Council have used a natural soil which is produced in the Broads National Park called biochar.

Biochar being added to the soil around the Kett�s Oak by the project team. Picture: Broads AuthorityBiochar being added to the soil around the Kett�s Oak by the project team. Picture: Broads Authority

The charcoal-like substance has been added to the soil around the tree to increase water and nutrients with the hope of giving the tree a “new lease of life”.

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Andrea Kelly, Broads Authority environment policy adviser, said, “It’s great to be working on a project with such a significant environmental benefit, and finally helping a famous ancient oak tree.

“The UK’s oldest oak is said to be over 1,000 years old, so we hope this work helps the Kett’s Oak live for another 500 years.”

Biochar being added to the soil around the Kett’s Oak by the project team. Picture: Broads AuthorityBiochar being added to the soil around the Kett’s Oak by the project team. Picture: Broads Authority

Biochar is produced using leftover wood from conservation work in and around the Broads. It has a highly porous, honeycomb structure to locks in water, nutrients, microbes, fungi and other nutrients for the soil.

Ongoing monitoring will indicate whether the soil improvements alongside the tree preservation measures have been a success.

In 1549, Robert Kett held an uprising against rich landowners who refused access to common grazing land, cementing the oak’s position as on the UK’s most famous trees.

Councillor Andy Grant, cabinet member for the environment, said, “We want to see this much loved and historically important tree thrive for hundreds more years.

“Expert scans and testing suggest an effective approach is to boost the health of the tree through improving the soil it lives in.

“I hope over the coming years we will be able to see and appreciate the results of this careful work being undertaken to help this famous tree thrive for future generations to enjoy.”


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