Mighty Sir Hugh

During the Woodland Edge event we set a challenge on this blogsite to guess the girth of one of the sentinel oak trees that framed the conference venue. These veteran trees added to nature’s own vibes we felt at the gathering within the woodland setting, against which the conference was perched. The particular tree we measured was named Sir Hugh. 43.75% of you thought Sir Hugh was 20 feet and 2 inches wide. We can now announce that he totals an impressive 18 feet 8 inches (that’s 5.69m in new currency), so well done if you were one of the people who guessed that amongst the choices that we offered in the vote.

According to Gavin Saunders, a survey was carried out in 2006 of the Medusa-like veteran trees in the Neroche area. It found that 75% of veteran trees of all species were below 4.5m girth/circumference (14 feet 9 inches), 5% were more than 6m, and the largest of all (about a mile from the conference site) was 10.2mm, which is mega-sized even for veteran oaks. For context, the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest is 10.4m (see photo below). Since the Victorian era the massive limbs of the Major Oak have been supported by an elaborate system of scaffolding.

We’ve previously mentioned the special forces of these trees, and Gordon the Dowser (see top pic) even marked the extent of their energy field in the forest. There is no doubt that many participants felt the presence of these forest guardians in various ways. Most specifically, Gordon sensed that the trees wanted their tangled understorey to be cleared. Some of the volunteers set about this task for the three particular trees who had communicated this plea, and Gordon felt their wishes had been honoured. The subject of veteran trees leads us to a world where ecology, history, folklore and much more fuse together. As a starter for further reading why not try the Forestry Commission guide on the subject…  and this manual which you can use to estimate their age.

We also had a quick look on the web beyond the UK to gain an international comparison. The widest tree in the world is the Sunland Baobab in South Africa and is located on Sunland Farm near Modjadjiskloof, Limpopo Province. This Baobab is quite renowned because in its hollowed trunk some locals have established a bar and a wine cellar which can apparently hold up to 60 people! The Baobab tree has been carbon dated and is estimated to be around 6000 years old, which would make it one of the oldest trees in the world. The circumference of the Sundland Baobab trunk is a massive 33.4 metres.

COMING SOON on this blog we’ll have feedback from the Woodland Edge workshops

– James


The ancient tree trunk – what does it measure?

Scattered amongst the neighbouring forest at the woodland edge conference venue are a number of veteran oaks. These ancient trees are prominent guardians of this piece of the forest, indicating one of its past uses as wood pasture and deer park. The age of the oaks is measured in terms of centuries. Gordon the tree dowser believe’s the one shown here is perhaps 586 years old, as the tree’s conference label declares.

Many people will look for faces, characters and other features in trees young and old, but these old oaks seem especially charismatic. Perhaps the trees have enjoyed all the special attention they’ve received over the last few days, including being illuminated at night by colourful spotlights. Some of these mighty oaks have earned their own name. Although they are often thought as looking feminine in form, they have male titles as a rule, such as Sir William, who will feature in a later blog.

The 586 year old tree shown in these pictures, named by the locals as Sir Hugh, was measured during the conference to satisfy curiosity about the tree’s impressive girth.

It took two of us to measure the trunk! I invite you to guess the result – tell us what you think by using the options below…

This is just for fun so take your pick and look out for the answer next week.

– Rick