The Old Oak Tree

There’s an ancient oak tree not far from my house. Standing at the end of a residential street, bigger than a house and taking up a huge piece of land, it has watched over the hillside for at least three hundred years, if the size of it is anything to go by. It’s obviously been a tree of note for many years- the street on which is stands is called Oakdene Road and, further up the hill, are roads named Oak Street and Oak Close.

Within its spreading branches a world may be found, a microcosm of insect and plant life, of flocks of birds and darting squirrels, cawing crows nesting high in its branches. I visit it often, watching the branches change from barren winter to the lush green of summer, leaves dancing and twisting in the light and air. It is a tree of dreams, of winter nights and howling winds, of days when fields stretched beneath its branches, of confidences whispered and sweet beer drunk in its shade.

Sometimes, standing beneath the branches, I get a glimpse of those times. Of how it must have been before houses and streetlights blocked the view of the valley, a time when our town was a collection of small villages around a river. There’s a sense, too, of how fleeting human existence is when compared to such a being – the tree was alive long before I was born, and (I hope) will be around long after I’m gone.

There are times when the bark on the great trunk feels warm, despite the cold air, and other times when it crackles with energy, a sense of connectedness with the landscape around us. Sometimes it is streaked dark with rain, other times dusty with summer heat.

And sometimes, there is treasure left there; raven feathers or a crooked staff, pearlescent mushrooms, the silver trails of snails.

Most recently, it was an emerald-green nest in one of the low branches, soft with moss, festooned with berries and leaves.

To stand in the presence of such a being is to touch history, to connect with the ancient story of the land. The oak is said to be a tree of stories, each acorn holding possibility. I wonder what stories it will tell me, next time I visit…

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25 thoughts on “The Old Oak Tree

  1. Too many people look at big trees and don’t see history or life, they see obstructions to light, new roads or houses, ‘dangerous’ branches that might, if someone were to stand underneath one during an electric storm or a hurricane, just might drop off. We don’t care enough about anything we haven’t made ourselves.

    • So true, Jane. Yet this tree seems to be revered, given enough space to spread its branches and grow, giving its name to the streets in the area. But HS2 has shown us that even those revered trees can be destroyed in the name of progress – let us hope it doesn’t come to this one

      • If lots of streets are names after oak trees, it’s maybe an indication that there was an oak wood where the houses are now and your big oak is the only one that’s left. Road builders hate trees.

      • According to old records, the land was two adjoining farms before it was built on in the 30s and 40s, so perhaps the trees were boundary markers? (there’s another big old oak at the top of the hill). And perhaps there was an oak grove there, before that…

  2. This is so beautiful and evocative of past and present Helen, I love the vision of someone whispering confidences and drinking beer under its boughs, you made me love your tree and its ancient energy, the energy of deep time and the church of green places. Xxx

    • Thank you so very much for your lovely comment (and apologies for the delay in responding, I’ve been deep in writing world). And you’ve described it so very perfectly, ‘the energy of deep time and the church of green places’ – that’s exactly what it is 🙂 Hope you’re well xx

      • No need to apologize….all good. That’s exciting you have a book you are working on,hope it’s going well. I’ve finished the first draft of my novel in nanowrimo and going to leave it for a while, let it permeate and sink into my subconscious and then tackle it over the Christmas 🎄 holidays. The staycation we are forced to have can actually be pretty productive for writing. I am going well, hope you are too xxx

  3. Pingback: The Old Oak Tree by Helen Glynn Jones | Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

      • Yes, they are. I was raised in a small house near a lovely little lake and in the middle of an old-growth virgin forest in Ohio. It was a club so no more than 30 homes were allowed. My father didn’t even cut down hollowed parts of old trees. There was a little hoot owl living in one. Dad liked the natural look.

      • That sounds absolutely gorgeous! I lived for a while on the edge of Stanley Park in Vancouver and there were some marvellous huge old trees in there (sadly I believe they lost quite a few in a storm a few years back). I do believe that living near nature is one of the best things for us 🙂

  4. A beautiful post, Helen. I adore trees and you clearly ‘see’ them and the gifts they freely give. I learned recently that oaks support over 350 different species, more than any other tree. Oak is truly the Queen of the Forest!

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Eliza – I’m glad you liked the post and my old oak tree friend 🙂 I agree, King and Queen of the Forest – I feel fortunate to have met this one 🙂

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