Stanmer Park is a special place with a unique collection of trees.

Right on the fringe of the city it is Brighton’s nearest countryside with 500 hectares of rolling Downland country set in the South Downs National Park. It is home to the Great Wood planted in the 18th and 19th century which now dominates the northeast Brighton skyline. Not only do they look magnificent but these trees also help combat climate change by capturing and storing carbon which contributes to cleaner air in our city.

There are thousands of trees including a remarkable collection of veteran and ancient trees, so called because of their:

  • rarity
  • age
  • condition
  • historical interest
  • habitat value

Recent mapping has discovered approximately 70 veteran trees and a handful of older ancient trees with another 100 developing trees which in time will become veterans of the future. The hollow trunked ancient Yew in the church cemetery almost certainly ranks as Brighton’s oldest tree. No one is certain of its age, but it is estimated to be well over 500 years old. An ancient tree is so old it has passed beyond maturity into its ancient phase, whereas a veteran tree can be any age but has features of ancientness. Ancient trees are all veterans, but not all veterans are ancient.

The small selection of trees shown here are among Stanmer’s best examples of the different varieties of trees in the Park. There's an avenue of veteran Beech trees planted 300 years ago lining a track once used as an original carriage drive through Stanmer Great Wood. And there are many champion trees which, because of their height and/or girth, are listed in a national database of the most notable trees in the UK. The Park’s apple orchards under the care of the Stanmer Permaculture Trust are recognised as a National Collection because of the variety and rarity of apples grown there. Apples like Yorkshire Greening and The Crawley Beauty, that you seldom or never see in the shops, all grow here.

Over the years, Stanmer Park has undergone huge changes. The 1987 Great Storm caused extensive damage especially among the Beech trees. Sadly, in recent times hundreds of Ash trees have died and been felled for safety after becoming infected with the Ash dieback fungus. Elms too have been ravaged by Dutch elm disease.

With the aid of the accompanying tree trail app you will be able to go on a kind of treasure hunt, seeking out these special trees and their exact locations. The app also provides web links to help you find out more about each of the trees. They trees are the city’s heritage and deserve to be better known so that they can be celebrated, enjoyed and admired.

Vivienne Barton

1. Yew Taxus baccata

Yew Taxus baccata tree at Stanmer Park.

Classified as an ‘ancient tree’.

Believed to be the oldest tree in Brighton.

Girth 5.94m. Stanmer churchyard.

The yews here were first noted in 1833 in An Historical and Descriptive Account of the Coast of Sussex: Brighton

2. Caucasian wingnut Pterocarya fraxinifolia

Caucasian wingnut Pterocarya fraxinifolia tree at Stanmer Park

Planted 1965 by Stanmer resident and Brighton tree expert, John Gapper. Stanmer pond.

3. Lebanese Cedar Cedrus libani

Lebanese Cedar Cedrus libani tree at Stanmer Park

Cedar of Lebanon tree. East Sussex height champion. Best of three Cedars behind Stanmer House

4. Apple tree

4. Apple tree at Stanmer Park

Planted before the First World War but still fruiting profusely.

The fruit resembles those of Yorkshire Greening, a very old apple variety, but identification is not certain.

Brighton Permaculture Trust’s orchards at Stanmer Park host the National Collection of Sussex apples containing 31 varieties.

5. Common Lime Tilia x europaea

Common Lime Tilia x europaea at Stanmer Park

East Sussex height champion.

Approach road to Stanmer House

6. Horse chestnut Aesculus hippocastanum

Horse chestnut Aesculus hippocastanum at Stanmer Park

Largest and oldest of its type in Stanmer. Planted in 19th century. Village main street.

Horse chestnuts are toxic.

7. Sweet Chestnut Castanea sativa

Sweet Chestnut Castanea sativa at Stanmer Park

30 metres high. These trees can live for 1,000 years. Planted in 19th century. Cultivated or wild sweet chestnuts are edible.

8. Elm Ulmus minor x pumila

8. Elm Ulmus minor x pumila at Stanmer Park

Also known as the Siberian elm. Planted 1965. British Isles height and girth champion Resistant to elm disease.

9. English Oak Quercus robur


English Oak Quercus robur at Stanmer Park.

Common oak or English oak. Best tree for wildlife.

10. Turkey Oak Quercus cerris

Turkey Oak Quercus cerris at Stanmer Park

More than 30 metres, tallest oak in Brighton. Leaf resembles a turkey’s foot.

11. Manchurian Birch Betula mandschurica

Manchurian Birch Betula mandschurica at Stanmer Park.

East Sussex champion for height. Also known Asian white birch.

12. Chinese Ash Fraxinus chinensis

Chinese Ash Fraxinus chinensis at Stanmer Park.

British Isles height champion and East Sussex girth champion. Unusual ash: leaves are used in traditional Chinese medicine.

13. Elm Ulmus Sapporo Autumn Gold

Elm Ulmus Sapporo Autumn Gold at Stanmer Park

Planted 1983. Most widely planted elm in Europe. Resistant to Dutch elm disease.

14. Common Hazel Corylus avellana

Common Hazel Corylus avellana at Stanmer Park

More like a shrub than a tree. Hazel has been coppiced in Stanmer for hundreds of years. The trees are regularly pruned and the bendy wood harvested for use as stakes, fencing, poles, walking sticks. This tree has been left to grow and is estimated to be more than 80 years old

15. Common Ash Fraxinus excelsior

Common Ash Fraxinus excelsior at Stanmer Park

Hundreds of Ash trees grow in Stanmer. Many are being felled because they have a fungus which kills them. This coppiced multistemmed trunk is one of a few estimated to be more than 100 years old

16. Common Beech Fagus sylvatica

Common Beech Fagus sylvatica at Stanmer Park.

Native green Beech. One of an avenue of veteran Beech trees planted 300 years ago along an original carriage drive through the woods.

17. Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus

Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus at Stanmer Park.

More than 100 years old. The most common tree in the city.

Map of Special trees of Stanmer Park

The pink line shows the Woodland trail. 

The green line shows the Monument trail.

The blue line shows the Historic trail.

Numbers 1 to 17 on the brown pins show the Stanmer Special Tree trail.