HAMPSHIRE has been left counting the cost after it was revealed that hundreds of trees were felled by the ferocious storms that battered the UK.

The New Forest and nearby village of Mottisfont were among the areas hardest hit by the 80mph winds, which the National Trust says caused the worst damage for more than two decades.

At least a dozen storms swept across the UK from December to February, destroying oak, ash and beech trees in woodland and specimen trees in parks and gardens.

And experts are warning that wild weather events are likely to become more common as climate change continues to wreak havoc.

National Trust nature and wildlife specialist Matthew Oates highlighted the need to make woodlands more resilient to the changes.

More than 50 National Trust sites have been surveyed, with many gardeners, rangers and foresters saying the loss of trees has been the greatest in more than two decades.

These included Mottisfont Abbey, near Romsey, and National Trust commons in the north of the New Forest.

The New Forest has the highest concentration of ancient and veteran trees in western Europe and about half the National Park is covered with woodland.

Bryan Wilson, the National Park’s senior tree officer, said conifers were particularly hard hit, with one Scots pine snapped in half 25ft above the ground.

Nowhere witnessed the scale of devastation seen during the Great Storm of 1987 but some sites lost hundreds of trees including valued ancient specimens.

National Trust sites in the south include Stourhead in Wiltshire, which lost 400 trees including an oak that was between 200 and 250 years old.

Mr Oates said: ''People love and need trees, and the loss of specimen trees in gardens and parks, and of ancient beeches and oaks in the woods and wider countryside, hurts us all and damages much wildlife.

''We value and venerate these old sentinels and need to become increasingly aware of the power of the weather. Increased storminess, and increased extreme weather events generally, are likely to stress trees further.”

But Mr Oates stressed that Trust gardens were open for business.