Why is the woodland temporarily closing?
The Park’s Old Oak Wood is a truly special place; a unique conservation area designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The oak trees that still grow here are ancient and twice as old as any of the buildings. The woodlands team at Dalkeith Country Park have therefore taken the decision to temporarily close the Old Oak Wood (on the purple walking trail) to protect these special trees and let the roots recover over the winter.
If trees could talk...
If trees could talk, our oaks would have stories to tell dating back over a thousand years ago. It is thought that these trees are the last remnant of the ancient forest of the Lothians. King David I first declared the area a royal hunting forest in 1163 after which it became a managed woodland pasture in the 14th century. In the 17th century King Charles I would regularly come to the Old Oak Wood to hunt deer and cows would be brought up from the Borders area to be ‘finished off’ before going to the markets.
Our oak trees
The oak trees of the Old Oak Wood are now in the final centuries of their lives. Hundreds of years ago, they grew to be strong Maiden Oaks, matured to be Veteran Oaks, and now they are shrinking down within themselves as they become Ancient Oaks. Just like people, they get smaller as they get older. As they age, parts of the tree die and the deadwood becomes a living habitat for rare lichens and invertebrates that only live in timber of this age. So rare is this type of woodland that there are five species of beetle resident here that are not found anywhere else in Scotland.
Did you know that Dalkeith Country Park was recently revealed as a heritage tree hotspot after experts recorded 500 ancient, veteran and notable oaks over the last year.
Protecting the root system
These unique trees are also very sensitive with a delicate root system. This makes them particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Over winter, heavy rainfall can cause the soil around the trees to become saturated. In addition, the Old Oak Wood is a popular place to walk, and the combination of walkers and rain can cause the soil around the trees to erode and compromise the trees’ ability to feed themselves.
We are taking specialist advice from Scottish National Heritage, to close the path through the Old Wood over the winter, starting from Monday 06 November. By Spring it is hoped that the path will have dried out enough to open this unique place again and, with a good summer, the path will remain open until late Autumn 2024.
We’d like to thank you for your understanding at this time and hope that you can take this opportunity to explore our other beautiful walking routes in the meantime.