THE New Forest National Park Authority is calling for sightings of age-old ‘tree graffiti’ with the aim of better understanding how our ancestors used the area.

Initials, dates, pictures, poems and royal marks can all be found throughout the New Forest, scribbled through the years by the likes of foresters, Second World War soldiers, Kingsmen and even those seeking protection from witches.

Also known as an arborglyph, tree graffiti is under threat. Over time, marks have warped or are being damaged by animals or humans. Trees blowing over or dying also threaten the longevity of these markings.

Reported findings will be used to map and record the lost and forgotten stories of the New Forest woodlands in a database which can be accessed by the public.

Forestry Journal:

Among the most common tree graffiti in the New Forest is the King’s Mark. Lawrence Shaw, archaeologist at the New Forest NPA explained: “This is shown as a broad arrowhead and was used to identify trees reserved for building Royal Navy ships. Once iron and steel were introduced to shipbuilding, the trees remained untouched, and still bear their royal mark to this day.

Other graffiti to be on the look out for are initials and names, or perhaps even a picture carved into a tree. These vary from eagles to boats, houses and people. Concentric circles – known as witch marks – are thought to have been carved into trees to ward off evil spirits.

Shaw added: “To date, there’s no central record of the known tree graffiti found across the New Forest. We want to be able to refer back to these glimpses in the New Forest’s past, even when the trees themselves are lost.”

Forestry Journal:

Lucy Saunders, assistant tree office at the New Forest NPA, said: “The New Forest is lucky to have the densest population of ancient and veteran trees in Western Europe. These come with lots of stories, as well as old graffiti you might not find anywhere else in the country.”

The New Forest NPA is only looking to record the tree graffiti found across public woodland in the New Forest and is asking people not to enter private land. The New Forest NPA also asks people not to carve any new marks on trees.

If you spot some tree graffiti in the New Forest, take a picture of it and share it via along with its location.