9 April – Ancient Trees

A tree walk with former NT forester and current volunteer John Surplice. A man who not only knows all of the trees on the estate but who planted many of them too including the impressive avenue of conifers along Benger’s Lane. We start with the magnificent Mottisfont Oak located by the river down aptly named Oakley Lane. It is estimated to be 800 – 1100 years old and is still a thriving, living tree.   The trunk is hollow with room enough for 20 people. Legend has it that a cow gave birth in the tree and in the 1930s workmen would play cards within it. Today it is home to a barn owl.

mottisfont oak

Then to Great Copse to wander around a semi-natural ancient woodland. This is an oak woodland with an understory of hazel. Some self seeded beech trees and silver birches are present as is hawthorn, hornbeam and wild cherry. All these are indigenous trees and would have been present in the medieval period. By the river are field maples, perhaps planted as boundary trees. One group, maybe 200-300 years old, growing in a ring. Descendants of a parent tree now dead.

ancient field maples

ancient field maples

wild cherry, the blossom is always white

wild cherry, the blossom is always white

We completed our morning with a cup of coffee at John’s workshop where he creates stunning sculptures from oak boughs and trunks collected from fallen trees. He strips away the rotten wood to the healthy hardwood beneath revealing the intricate patterns of grain and form.

John's workshop

John’s workshop

John's sculpture

John’s sculpture

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