The tree grew so well, the space available to it became a little congested. At the top of the tree (which, I would guess, is about two feet high) leaves would rise above road level, only to be sheered off by the tyres of cars running over it. It isn’t a busy street so leaves would have time to grow and poke up — but they never lasted.
Thursday last week I heard from my father that a great oak had blown down overnight near Wrexham. From the internet I learned it was the Pontfadog Oak that had fallen – Britain’s second-biggest-girthed sessile oak (Quercus petraea). After doing a bit of research and discovering two other named oaks nearby (a story for another day), I decided to pay my respects and get some photographs of the fallen champion. So on Saturday morning I jumped in the car and drove the 100 miles to Wales – hey, if Yorkshire’s greatest lapsed treeblogger can’t do that, then who can?
I was in for a shock when I saw both the underside of the tree and the soil on which had it stood for centuries. Where were all the roots? For all intents and purposes, there was nothing at all to anchor it to the ground. The biggest roots there, which were really nothing, were completely rotten. There were a couple of small straggly roots that were live wood, but had that really managed to sustain the whole tree?
For those of us in northern climes, winter can be a good time to look at moss, lichen, and the woodier shelf fungi. British blogger Lucy Corrander finds and photographs February fungi on old, felled and fallen wood of yew and sycamore. (If you know your U.K. polypores, stop by and help her out with the i.d.s.)
Ashley Peace at treeblog visited the Hermitage, Dunkeld (in the Scottish Highlands), to see Britain’s 3rd tallest tree, and came back with some fine black-and-white photos of the tree and the surrounding area.
Just because she’s started following a new tree this year, Lucy at Loose and Leafy has found that she can’t abandon last year’s sycamore. She shares some new photos of the tree and its forb companions, and concludes the post with a list of links to other tree-followers. (Add your blog to the list by finding a tree of your own to follow this year.)
British blogger Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy followed a sycamore tree last year, but says its size was a disadvantage — “all the ‘action’ happens high up. At ground level, shade and location mean it’s not a good place for other plants to grow… what little there is that struggles into life between its toes tends to get nibbled as soon as it shows its head above ground.” She doesn’t want to blog about trees in isolation, but as members of an ecological community.
So this year’s tree, by contrast, is part of a small but dense clump of vegetation, and is so small and “scraggy,” it’s “hardly a tree at all.” But a tree it is, and one of some significant folkloric and even exotic appeal to this North American reader (though we do have a closely related member of the same genus). What’s the species? Read the post to find out.
Last month we linked to Part 1 of a report on a visit to a surviving fragment of Scotland’s once extensive pine forest. Ashley has since added a Part 2 and Part 3. His photos give a good flavor of the landscape.
Heather, bilberry (blaeberry) and juniper form the shrub storey while Scots pine forms a rather open canopy, with a few downy birches for company. Other trees I saw in the Ryvoan Pass, but in miniscule numbers, were willow, rowan, holly and alder.
Luara Hegfield has been posting some wonderfully atmospheric photos of trees to accompany her blog entries for the “river of stones” January mindful writing challenge (see the Writing Our Way home blog for more on that). I especially liked this one of tree branches at dusk, these three of trees and water, and this lone birch.
Welsh painter Clive Hicks-Jenkins blogged some photos from his holiday visit to the medieval town of Sarlat in southern France, which included a shot of some awesomely grotesque trees which look as if they’ve been pollarded every year since the 14th century.
On Wednesday, London blogger Jean Morris shared a stunningly blue collage calling attention to “The shapes of trees.”
I am glad I belong to a religion that worships a tree.
—Stephen Batchelor, Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist
The UK blog Save Our Woods features a guest post from the chair of a tenant management organization (TMO) for a housing estate in London. George Arkless finds himself in the awkward position of having to advocate for tree removal, and reflects on the consequences of poor planning for urban trees.
Poor planning, in the residents’ view, means that the problems we now face are numerous, and while anyone from the council we have invited to look at the problems have agreed with us felling trees is such a sensitive matter that no one has been willing to put it in writing.
Just as there is delight when I get out of London and see trees in their true magnificence, or seeing a tree that is alive with life, or a tree so beautiful it just takes your breath away. Why should I need to leave the neighbourhood I live in to see such beauty around me?
Most people associate Wassail with Christmas caroling, but as the Wikipedia reminds us, it’s also the ancient, probably pre-Christian tradition of “drinking (and singing) the health of trees in the hopes that they might better thrive. … Perhaps unbeknown to the general public, this ancient English tradition is still very much thriving today.”
A web search (kindly conducted by rr of Twisted Rib blog) turned up several listings of events from recent years. Real Cider blog shared a select list of Wassail events 2011, ranging from the 6th to the 23rd of January. Several more are listed on the British Christmas Customs and Traditions page for Wassailing (which also includes some useful information about the custom). This list from 2009 is the most comprehensive we’ve seen, though it may be out of date. And the best documented single event on the web appears to be the wassailing at the village of Whimple in east Devon.
Whimple Wassailing was re-started in 1993 under the auspices of Whimple History Society who saw it as their duty to try to revive this industry so vital to the well-being of the area and, of course, the national interest. Our ritual follows the traditional well-tried and tested ceremony of our predecessors with the Mayor in his robes of office and the Princess carrying lightly toasted bread in her delicately trimmed flasket, whilst the Queen, wearing her crown of Ivy, Lichen and Mistletoe, recites the traditional verse.
The original Whimple Incantation
has been retained:-
Here’s to thee, old apple tree,
That blooms well, bears well.
Hats full, caps full,
Three bushel bags full,
An’ all under one tree.
Her Majesty is then gently but manfully assisted up the tree in order to place the cyder-soaked toast in the branches whilst the assembled throng, accompanied by a group of talented musicians, sing the Wassail Song and dance around the tree. The Mulled Cider or ‘Wassail Cup’ is produced and everyone takes a sample with their ‘Clayen Cup’.
The Guns are fired and a general rumpus is created by the crowd banging their saucepan lids and playing a variety of percussion ‘instruments’ of all shapes and sizes to wake up the tree ready for the next crop.
Sounds like a good time!