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Press release

Three-huggers discover british Elm populations

Elm Map 2004, 18–26 September 2004, nationwide

Last year’s Elm Map project proved that tree hugging pays off, with over 800 walkers discovering 222 previously uncharted elms in the British countryside. For this year’s Elm Map, the Natural History Museum and 10 partner organisations are inviting even more people to help them plot the country’s wonderful elm trees.

As part of the Ramblers’ Association’s Welcome to Walking Week, the aim of Elm Map is to plot Britain’s population of elm trees. Special attention is paid to the larger, ancient trees, which could hold the key to Dutch elm disease resistance and play host to a range of rare and important associated species. Walkers are asked to look out for elms along their routes and estimate whether each is young, middle aged or mature by ‘hugging’ it; a tree is classed as mature if the walker cannot clasp their hands around the trunk of the tree. These records are then added to the Ancient Tree Hunt database.

‘This year there are even more ways to get involved, with over 35 Elm Map walks already registered in 19 counties across the UK,’ said Johannes Vogel, Head of UK Biodiversity at the Natural History Museum. ‘Even if you can’t join a walk you can still take part by submitting a record of your elm tree online or by post.’

Many of this year’s walks will have specialist botanists accompanying them, so walkers can discover more about the importance of elm trees and the range of species they host. However, people can still take part in the great elm hunt even if there are no guided walks in their area. Online identification guides are now available on the Internet and recording forms can be submitted online, so anyone who knows of an elm tree in their area can add this information directly onto the elm database.

Elm Map 2004 aims to build on the successes of the 2003 event, which helped to create the most detailed picture yet of the state of Britain’s elm population. More than 200 walk leaders and individuals across the UK took part in 43 organised walks. More than 445 elm records were added to the database, of which 25 per cent were categorised as large trees, which means 109 of these elm trees had a girth too big to be hugged by one person. These trees were mature during the 1970s Dutch elm disease crisis, and it is these survivors that provide the unique habitat for a variety of specialist organisms of great interest to Elm Map’s partner organisations. The largest tree discovered was a 50-foot wych elm in Cotherstone, County Durham, larger than the arm span of four adults.

The success of Elm Map has not been limited to plotting the locations of elm trees – partner organisations have also been able to use this information for vital conservation projects. The Conservation Foundation has been able to locate mature trees for cuttings and now 7,000 young elms are being grown to create a new generation of trees. Regional specialists from the British Lichen Society and the British Bryological Society will now target some large trees during their ongoing field surveys to record the associated lichens and mosses.

- Ends -

Notes for editors

How to get involved:
If you know of, or have found, a mature elm tree and would like to contribute to the map:

  • records may be entered online at The Ancient Tree Hunt website at
  • contact Elm Map at the Natural History Museum via email, by telephone 0207 942 5932 or by post to UK Biodiversity, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD.The full list of Elm Map walks is available from the Ramblers’ Association website
  • Elm Map partner organisations are: the Natural History Museum, English Nature, The Ramblers’ Association, The Woodland Trust, The Tree Register, The Ancient Tree Forum, The British Bryological Society, The British Lichen Society, The British Mycological Society, Butterfly Conservation and the Conservation Foundation.
  • The Natural History Museum’s UK Biodiversity Programme initiates innovative projects in scientific research and conservation of wildlife, of which Elm Map is one. The Natural History Museum is the UK’s national museum of natural history and a centre of scientific excellence in taxonomy and biodiversity.
  • English Nature is the government agency that champions the conservation of wildlife and geology throughout England. Elm Map is part of English Nature’s Species Recovery Programme. Through its emphasis on wider public involvement, this project raises awareness and brings more people in contact with wildlife, thus contributing to English Nature’s People and Nature Programme.
  • The Ramblers’ Association is a charity committed to protecting Britain’s countryside as well as its unique network of paths. The involvement in Elm Map is a reflection of this commitment.


  • The Natural History Museum is open Monday - Saturday 10.00-17.50, Sunday-11.00-17.50
  • The Natural History Museum's public enquiries telephone number is 020 7942 5000
  • The Museum is accessible to visitors in wheelchairs. For access details telephone 020 7942 5000
  • Nearest tube: South Kensington
  • Entry to the Museum: FREE

If you would like to request images or further information, please contact:

Becky Chetley, Sarah Hoyle or Mairi Allan
Tel: 020 7942 5106/5654
Email:   (not for publication)

For more information about Welcome to Walking Week please contact the Ramblers’ Association press office:

Paul Bell
Tel: 0207 339 85 32

Issued August 2004