The Mighty Oak

There are lots of oak trees in this area. We even have two on our property, one in the front, and a larger one dominating the back garden. This is one of the biggest I have seen around here though, and it greets you as you enter through the gate onto Hoe Rough. It has been dated at around 350 years old.
The photo can be enlarged by clicking on it.

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It started growing in 1666.

As it grew, London was devastated by The Great Fire. Charles II was on the throne of England, and Samuel Pepys was writing his famous diary. When this oak was 110 years old, the far-off colonies in America declared independence, and started a war with England to achieve it.

In 1916, the tree had reached the grand old age of 250. That summer, Britain suffered terrible casualties at the Battle of The Somme, and the First World War would drag on for two more years after that. Fifty years later, and England won the 1966 football World Cup. The Beatles were said to be ‘more popular than Jesus’, and the war in Vietnam was escalated. I was just 14 years old. The tree was 300.

This tree slumbered through the Moon landings, the first heart transplant, industrial unrest, and various changes of government. It shed its leaves and acorns, and its massive trunk increased in girth. It paid no heed to the three day week, power cuts, immigration, or the EU. The pettiness of mankind was beneath it, and the branches continued to spread. It survived storms, lightning, parasites, and drought. It paid no heed to snow, ice, flood, or hurricane.

When I am not only dead and gone, but my presence on earth is no longer even a memory, it will still stand. People will pass under the huge canopy, and wonder at a tree that is over 400 years old. That is just how it should be, and the thought of it makes me feel strangely happy, deep inside.

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33 thoughts on “The Mighty Oak

  1. What a beautiful piece of writing, Pete! It’s incredible to think how much change these trees have seen. At my university, there is a yew tree which is estimated to be around 800 years old! Imagine!

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  2. Pete, Oh My Goodness what a beautiful post you have here and I’m really pleased and happy you sent this link to me.. If, only the trees could talk…. I often wonder about the other people who have lived in this house of mine and if they too enjoyed the birch that was once in my yard… I love how you told of history along with the aging tree. The picture is amazingly beautiful… Thank you again…

    Laura 🙂

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  3. Ah, I enjoyed this post, the links to history…. I remember, years ago, on the island of Kos seeing the Platan tree of Hippocrates, he of the Oath…. But, according to Wikipedia “The current tree is only about 500 years old,[2] but may possibly be a descendant of the original tree which allegedly stood there 2400 years ago, in Hippocrates’ time.” Nonetheless, that tree will have been witness to plenty in its 500 years!

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    1. There is something humbling about the longevity of a single tree. When I get too preoccupied about my life, I think about that, and it puts everything into perspective.
      Thanks, Sue.
      best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, we’re not that important, thankfully. I love trees. I haven’t seen any of the huge ones (although in Galicia, were my Dad was from there’s a chestnut tree that’s supposed to be over 1000 years old). Thanks for the reflection.

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    1. Thanks very much for your comment. I agree that it could well be the basis of a story, a book, or a film. Hopefully, someone a lot younger will write one of those one day, and bring the oak to a wider audience.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  5. ‘The pettiness of mankind was beneath it’ great line and reminder. This stands out of one of my favourite posts of yours that I have read.
    As for ashes, just dig a hole, chuck me in and plant a tree on top of me…..I should keep it fed for a few years.

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  6. I was thinking requesting a living urn. They bury your ashes along with a sprig of a tree–you are recycled into your favorite variety. Instead of taking room in a cemetery, you would become a living thing of beauty for others to enjoy. A protected park or historical grounds. Much happier location and outcome, in my opinion. Love your oak tree information! Cheers, Pete.

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    1. Thanks, Cindy. Both Julie and I intend to have a ‘woodland burial’, where our ashes are buried in a nature park, marked only by a numbered post.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  7. I love these kind of posts, Pete! It’s truly fascinating to think about how trees witness so much human history.

    I don’t mean to upstage your oak trees, but up on Mt. Charleston, my favorite hike is on the Bristlecone Trail. According to one web site: “The oldest Bristlecone Pine is called a Raintree and it is estimated to be about 3000 years old.” I’ve seen that one, of course, and have photographed it as well as some of its kindred. I’ve also hiked the somewhat remote Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in California a number of times. According to a government web site: “Some of these living trees exceed 4000 years of age.” Methuselah, an “ancient” whose location is not publicly known, is said to be 4,850 years old!

    The trees in Sequoia National Park, which I’ve visited several times, are suspected to live to a ripe old age of 4,000, though the oldest living one, General Sherman, is still young at just 2,500 years.

    I grew up around walnuts and oaks, and certainly appreciate their beauty, size, and longevity. But whether we’re talking about a walnut, oak, cypress, spruce, yew, sequoia, or bristlecone, we’re reminded of just how short our own lives are on this planet….

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    1. The grand old trees in the USA are amazing indeed, David. Unfortunately, we cut down most of ours, to create the fleets of ships that built that empire.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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