Sunday, 16 November 2014


It isn't often I come across very old oak trees in this part of the country, but today I visited one near Wrest Park. With a trunk diameter of around 5ft this was once a very large tree but at some time in the past it had lost its uppermost branches above about 12ft leaving only a single main leaf bearing trunk continuing upwards of about 1 ft diameter and 25ft or so above that. What struck me was the the old craggy bark on the shaded side of the tree. It's age was very apparent by the deep ruts and distortions of the bark. I spent some time looking closely at this world of mosses, lichens and spiders and wished I had a magnifying glass. Various areas of the bark had evolved into different ecosystems possibly determined by light, shade, moisture, orientation, level of decay etc and this was marked by differences in the colours of the greens of the surface plant life. Where moses were covering the wood there was a dominant dark green. For lichens it was more of a pale whitish green and in areas of algae a more bright fluorescent like green. A rich brown dust covered some areas possibly due to the actions of woodpeckers delving into the rotten areas to find food. This is an incredible landscape that I am touching and exploring and which I am sure most people over the years have just walked by without giving it a second glance. I am reminded how in the past day or so man has managed to land a spacecraft on a comet orbiting Jupiter - on a surface that probably looks not too dissimilar in places. It is also amazing to realise that, from one perspective, these two very different places 300 million miles apart are connected through being a part of the universe. They were ultimately birthed in the same place, made of similar materials and are part of the natural world.

The wood here is incredibly still today. It is an overcast day, not cold, but no breeze at all. Even the last few very uppermost leaves are not perceptively moving. Tits, crows and the background rumble from a busy main road are the only sounds. How different a wood like this would be in the wind. There are, I think, several other trees like this in the woods and I expect at one time they stood in open parkland as the surrounding woodland (coppice?) grew up around them.

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