Old oak is saved from a power trim
Wickwar oak tree is over 800 years old, but faced the ‘chop’ to clear some space for overhead power lines, writes Mark Cantrell – that is until a local quarry manager stepped in to save it for his granddaughter
IT sounds unlikely, put like that, but a Gloucestershire quarry manager working for a Mexican company has stepped in to save one of Britain’s oldest oak trees from a potentially fatal ‘pruning’.
The tree has a girth of 10.5 metres and is comparable in size to the famous Major Oak in Sherwood Forest. It is estimated to be between 800 and 1,000 years old, which means it could have been planted before the Battle of Hastings.
But electricity company Western Power Distribution was due to carry out a major pruning and cutting of its canopy to release power lines that run through the top of the tree; that is, until Frank Hogg stepped in.
“This tree is part of our heritage and should be preserved for future generations,” he said. “My granddaughter Edith, now eight years old, first saw the tree about three years ago. She was fascinated by it and would run in and out of the big hole at the base, imagining fairies living in there.”
Hogg is a quarry manager working for Mexican-owned building materials supplier, Cemex UK. The tree grows on land the company owns in Wickwar. Realising the importance of this tree, he contacted the Tree Protection Officer at South Gloucestershire Council and discussions have started to find an alternative approach to the problem.
During the last century, the tree suffered some fairly severe treatment. Back in 1938, when the electricity lines were laid, the landowners tried to burn it down. Later, in the 1970s, it was severely cut back, once again to accommodate the power lines.
“Trees such as this one… provide a living link to our past,” said Jim Mullholland, a training and technical officer with the Ancient Tree Forum. “It is clearly a nationally valuable tree, and needs to be cherished and protected. It may have been lost if it wasn’t for the good work of Frank, who recognised its importance and sought to protect it.”
The Ancient Tree Forum is the only UK organisation focused solely on the conservation of ancient trees. Its aim is to safeguard ancient trees, along with their wildlife, heritage and cultural values.