A special visit occurred last weekend.
Acting on a tip-off from a ranger colleague, we followed a red dot on a screenshot map onto a narrow North Molton road, leading us to an inconspicuous triangle. This was where three roads met, and our special visit involved meeting an extraordinary tree.
Parked up safely along the road, we walked about 20 metres towards this triangle, and found a gap in the vegetation to climb up the bank and into the copse. This area of only 1316 square metres contained a treasure of history, the ancient Flitton Oak.
It took a matter of about 15 steps before a looming giant revealed itself amongst the younger trees; slowly, a large limb drew the eye to where the limb originated from, and there stood proudly a massive, magnificent being that had borne witness to the transience of time. In the middle of this tree was a large cavity, enough for two people to stand in.
It was exactly what I did. Standing there in the hollow of this ancient sessile oak, I looked around at the beautiful inner textures of this tree: year after year of withstanding the elements, fungi, decay, deer and squirrel damage, and losing its heartwood slowly, steadily but bravely. The Flitton Oak was still very much alive, a long limb manually propped up still bursting with the epicormic growth of green oak leaves. In addition, it was supporting thousands of other species like moss, lichen, ferns, ivy, fungi and invertebrates. This wasn’t even counting the many burrows in its bark and trunk where beetles would feed, bats would roost, and birds would bring up their young. The ecological importance of this ancient oak was absolutely stunning. I was utterly and completely mesmerised.
There was no doubt that this tree was historically special. I had heard from my colleagues that (1) apparently Charles the First hid in the tree during the civil war, (2) another source places it as the same age as several other named oaks in the time of Henry the First (AD1100), and lastly (3) it was said to be a thousand years old in the 1840s! This was possibly the oldest oak in North Devon.
I will definitely try to gather more information from historical records, so will post an update if I find anything else and when it gets verified. What a truly special tree!
I am humbled indeed.