English Version

Old Trees in The Netherlands and Western Europe

England 6

Sweet Chestnuts and Sessile Oaks at Croft Castle, Herefordshire

The marvellous estate of Croft Castle in Herefordshire has magnificent plantings of Sweet Chestnut. This is one of them, a line of Chestnuts of about 400 years old and up to 9 m (30 feet) in girth .

Near to the Castle this beautiful sound Sessile Oak ( Quercus petraea ) stands. It combines a height of 35 m (115 feet) with a girth of 8,6 m (28 feet). The famous American Forest-expert and tree-measurer Robert van Pelt visited Croft Castle in july 2005 and measured this tree. He estimated the total wood volume as 3800 cubic feet (107,6 cubic meter). This was the largest volume he saw of any oak in the UK. Like the Shobdon Oak below, this tree is perhaps not much older than 300 years. 
In the park are many old Sessile Oaks, among wich one of the largest in circumference of the UK with a girth of 11,2 m (37 feet), called "The Croft Castle Oak" wich can be seen at page 11 in
Thomas Pakenhams fantastic book: Meetings with remarkable Trees (literature 11).

The Shobdon Oak at Easthampton Farm

Not far from Croft Castle, at the Easthampton Farm near the village Shobdon, another marvellous Sessile Oak, called the Shobdon Oak, can be found. It has a grand domed crown, 26 m (85 feet) tall and 28 m ( 92 feet) wide, with a huge bole of 10,6 m (34 feet) girth. According to the late Alan Mitchell this giant seems not to be as old as could be expected: since 1870 it has been growing nearly 4 m (13 feet) in girth, 3 cm (1 inch) a year. At that time it probably was 170 or at most 200 years old, so now it will be 300 to 330 years. The impressive and sound trunk rises up to 7m were it splits in two huge limbs forming the beautifully proportioned crown.

The Shobdon Oak nearby: at the ground the girth is about 16,5 m!

Sadly I found in 2003 on the website of the farm in Shobdon of Tony and Babs Norman that this superb specimen was severely damaged by the storm of october 27th 2002. One of the great limbs with at least half the crown was teared of. I regret it very much, to my opinion it was one of the most beautiful oaks of all of Europe and surely one of the most harmoniously formed. 

In the summer of 2008 the second half of the tree has also fallen down. Now only a short wide trunk with a very small crown of lower branches remains. So this tree probably can stay alive, but looks like a pollarded tree. Perhaps quite a few of the so called 'pollard oaks' in Britain have a history like this tree. 

Knighthayes Court and its Turkey Oaks

In Devon, South West England, Knighthayes Court can be found, with its beautiful Castle and famous gardens, owned by the National Trust. In the park an outstanding group of Turkey Oaks ( Quercus cerris ) are to be seen. The Turkey Oak is related to the Common and Sessile Oak and a South-European species, wich was introduced around 1735 in England. Since than it is planted a lot as an ornamental tree because of its quick growth, notwithstanding its inferior wood. The Knighthayes Turkey Oaks are of the first plantings and have become huge: this is the biggest of them all and one of the two most impressive of the species all over Britain. It has a huge crown, perhaps matched only by some London Planes: it stands 36 m (118 feet) tall and 42 m (139 feet) wide. The trunk has a girth of 8,2 m (27 feet). Nowadays Turkey Oaks are rather combatted in England than planted, for they spread a disease wich is harmful to the native oaks.

Once more the great Turkey Oak at Knighthays.

Beside all these inividual specimen trees a famous old forest area , the New Forest , needs to be mentioned.

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