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Interesting Oak Trees Around the UK

 

Oaks are an important part of life here in the UK – both as growing trees and as a material that we use for many reasons in our daily lives. Understanding and appreciating oak trees (and planting more for the future) is crucial. Here are details of some interesting oak trees around the UK that shed light on British history, on oak tree ecology, and on the role oaks play in our landscapes and cultures:

Royal Oak, Shropshire

The Royal Oak was the tree in which the future King Charles II of England was said to have hidden to escape from the Roundheads following the Battle of Worcester in 1651. It was a part of Boscobel Wood, in the parklands of Boscobel House. It is remembered every year in the English traditions of Royal Oak Day. Unfortunately, the Royal Oak itself no longer stands. It is believed to be have been tragically destroyed by tourists cutting off branches and chunks as souvenirs in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Today, however, the ‘son of the Royal Oak’ stands on the site – a 200-300 year old descendent of the original. Third generation oaks have also been planted ceremonially nearby.

The Minchenden Oak, London

The Minchenden Oak, also formally known as the ‘Chandos Oak’, is located in Southgate and is one of London’s oldest trees. It is believed to be in the region of 800 years old. In the 19th Century this tree was said to have the largest canopy of any tree in England. Unfortunately, since then poor pruning practice and a very serious case of decay in 2013 have affected its grand appearance. Nonetheless, it is still a most remarkable specimen.

The Crouch Oak, Surrey

This pedunculate oak tree in Addlestone, Surrey is famed for its impressive girth, and for the fact that Queen Elizabeth I is said to have picnicked beneath it. Some estimates say that the tree began to grow here as early as the 11th Century, and it is certainly believed to be the oldest oak tree in the county. The tree is around 11m tall and has a girth of around 7m.

Queen Elizabeth Oak, Hatfield, Hertfordshire

Queen Elizabeth I was said to have received the news that she was queen while sitting under an oak tree here in the grounds of Hatfield House. While this scene was likely to have been manufactured due to the connotations of the oak tree for England and the English crown, an oak tree has more recently been planted here in the grounds of Hatfield House (in 1985) to commemorate the occasion. There are also a number of venerable old oak trees around the grounds – many of which are believed to be over 1200 years old. Exploring the grounds to visit these ancient beings is definitely well worthwhile.

Suffragette Oak, Glasgow

The Suffragette Oak is located in Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow. It was named Scotland’s tree of the year in 2015. Though not the oldest tree, this tree has gained a special place in hearts and minds because it was planted by Suffrage organisations on 20th April 1918 to commemorate women being given the right to vote in February of that year. Sadly,the tree was damaged by Storm Ophelia in 2017, and its height and canopy had to be reduced. Offcuts were gifted to Glasgow Women’s Library and are intended to be used to create items for sale to the public which celebrate efforts of the suffragettes.

Neil Gow’s Oak, Tayside

One of the most famous Scottish oak trees is the Birnam Oak, thought to be a remnant of the Birnam Wood immortalised in the Shakespeare play, ‘Macbeth’. But just 20 minutes walk from here is another interesting oak, which is famous for its association with beloved Scottish fiddler Neil Gow (1727-1807). He is said to have composed many of his melodies whilst leaning against this old sessile oak on the banks of the River Tay.

The Brimmon Oak, Powys, Wales

This beautiful oak tree as named UK tree of the year in 2016. It hit the headlines in 2009 when it was almost knocked down to make way for the Newton bypass! Fortunately this tree, with a girth of more than six metres, was saved by the efforts of local people. This interesting oak tree is just one of a number of grand oak specimens across Wales, which also include the Gregnog Oak at Tregynon, the Castle Oak at Dinefwr Park, and the Cwn yr Esgob Oak, to name just some of the favourites.

Forest of Dean

This triangular area of ancient woodland in Gloucestershire is another delightful place to see some old oaks. The area  is characterised by over 42.5 sq miles of mixed woodland. Wild boar live in the forest – they were illegally reintroduced over the last decade or so and their population is said to exceed one hundred. The Forest of Dean has beautiful viewpoints and a variety of bird and animal life. Amongst the interesting oak trees here are the Speech House Oaks.

Caledonian Forest, Glen Affric etc.

Scotland’s ancient forests were made up of Scot’s pines,and many other trees. This ancient forest once covered much of the country, though now only smaller remnants remain. Work is ongoing to re-forest and re-wild large areas, and to preserve existing remnants of this ancient habitat. Oak is and was only a minor component of the Caledonian forest, but it is important for providing a habitat for many lichens, insects and bird species. In Glens such as Glen Affric, Morriston and Strathfarrar, sessile oaks are found at lower elevations on drier, south facing slopes. It is believed that these were once much larger oak woods. Visiting these spots will allow you to appreciate oaks not as stand alone trees but as part of a far larger interconnected forest ecosystem.

Sunart Oak Woods

The sessile oak woods of the west coast of Scotland are also a wonderful place to learn more about oak’s role in an intricate ecosystem. The Sunart Oak Woods and other stands are some of the last remaining remnants of the temperate rainforest that once stretched all along the Atlantic coastlines of Europe. These woodlands are of great international import due to their unique diversity of species – especially lichens, mosses and ferns. Work is ongoing to restore and expand these beautiful oak woodlands.

 

Image Sources

Royal Oak, Shropshire Picture was taken by Amanda Slater

The Minchenden Oak, London Picture was taken by Graham C99

The Crouch Oak, Surrey Picture was taken by 80N

Queen Elizabeth Oak, Hatfield, Hertfordshire Picture was taken by Silvia Maggi

Suffragette Oak, Glasgow Picture was taken by Sara Thomas

Neil Gow’s Oak, Tayside Picture was taken by Rob Burke

The Brimmon Oak, Powys, Wales Picture was taken by Penny Mayes

Forest of Dean Picture was taken by Jonathan Billinger

Caledonian Forest, Glen Affric etc. Picture was taken by Stanley Howe

Sunart Oak Woods Picture was taken by Dave Fergusson

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