Oaks of the Cotswolds

Oaks of the Cotswolds

There is an English adage that states “it takes 200 years to sprout and English Oak, it takes another 200 years to grow and it takes another 200 years to die.”

The Oak that is depicted is one of those English Oak Trees. It is found in the Cotswold region of the U.K. It sheltered us during a light hail storm one October.

It easily could have held Robin Hood and all of his Merry Men in its bows. It has a crack in the base that could now easily hold three or four people. In a few generations it will succumb.
The magnificence of this tree can not be over stated.

With these notions and observations I start to ponder a past civilization that revered trees so much that they worshipped them.
The Druids in Europe recognized the importance of trees and the integral part that trees played in their lives.
Consider every aspect of their lives being touched by wood. Boats, benches, houses, barns, tool handles, lance and arrows, all made only of wood.

Much of this wood was not only harvested but it was also “cultivated”. Many trees were coppiced to produce a particular type of wooden branch or sprout.

Coppicing, most often involves cutting a perfectly good oak tree about 10 to 15 feet off the ground. The suckers that sprout from the trunk are a valuable source of straight roof rafters for your stone age hut. The sprouts were often 3 to 4 inches in diameter and would run a perfectly good “10 feet long” without any additional branching. They could be harvested for many years to come.
They were the equivalent to a modern day two by four piece of lumber.

Great Britain doesn’t have the same laws as many nations that covet their property rights. In the U.K. the commoner can walk about throughout the countryside without the fear of “trespass”.

The law states that passersby must shut the gates behind them. It is a valued and shared system that allows for the appreciation of the landscape. The land owners abide by this time tested understanding.

We walk where ever we want, whenever we want, we always shut the gates, after which we see the signage that includes a little arrow pointing far away in the distance, to the next village or gated pasture along our journey.

The small village pubs along the way provide hydration and sustenance for our bodies.

The dry stone mason that we meet along the way is building a new sheep fence about thirty inches wide and thirty six to forty inches tall. A truck load of sedimentary stone lies at his feet.

He is able to lay ten meters per day and as we survey his progress he has 120 meters completed with hundreds of meters to go, as it trails off over the hillside.

He tells us about that the way that he is constructing the wall. It is a time tested method but it will need to be repaired in four hundred to five hundred years because of settling of the stone. His fence will last the age of a European Oak Tree.

The oak tree has provided us shelter from the hail storm and has caused us to ponder how it has provided and survived twenty generations of people.

For the first fifteen generations it would have been considered a very valuable tree for lumber. This was during a time of commerce and ship building. A big new world was being discovered.

Trees were needed and trees were a valuable commodity, the U.K. was emerging as a leader in world trade. This tree would have been a prized possession for any person of limited means.

Today it has out lived its value as timber, alas, it is now a magnificent shade tree.

This makes us realize that this tree has been protected over the centuries by a wealthy and upper class owner of the land.
This tree has survived because of a person that has above average means, he was a person that wasn’t wondering where his next meal might be found. The tree was safe on his estate.

The Dark Ages have past and yet this tree continues to provide us with the ever present shelter that it has provided for hundreds of years. It is in the form of a majestic European Oak, it has survived because of the wealth of the land owners….over the course of 20 generations.

It is now safe from commercial enterprise because it can no longer provide bulwarks or keel for a ship.
Today it stops the hail and it casts shade. Maybe, just maybe, that is a value enough.


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