Tag Archives: ancient oaks

The Trees of Sherwood Forest

When I say “The Trees of Sherwood Forest” I really mean the ancient oaks. At the moment when people quote a figure they seem happy with the figure 997 – 450 of which are living.  About 250 of the 450 are healthy and 200 are in various states of declining health.

They say an oak spends 300 years growing, 300 years in maturity and 300 years dying, so this isn’t necessarily a cause for concern, though in 2007 they did lose seven trees – including four in one particularly blustery night.

There is a plantation in Dorset that contains 260 saplings grown from acorns of the Major Oak, but it was only planted in 2003, so they are still 287 years from maturity. I know that you have to take a long view when dealing with trees, but planting for a time 300 years from now is hard to take in.

Oaks support more species than any other tree, being host to around 350 species of insect and 30 species of lichen. The insects are food for birds: acorns feed jays, badgers, deer and squirrels (and, traditionally, pigs) and the flowers and buds are the foodplants of the caterpillars of the purple hairstreak.

Even the dead trees provide habitat for insects, plus nesting and roosting sites for birds and bats.

The most famous of the ancient oaks is the Major Oak, voted Britain’s Favourite Tree in 2002 and England’s Tree of the Year in 2014. It is something of a celebrity and will always be associated with Robin Hood. The story that he hid inside it is unlikely – at an estimated age of 800 – 1,000 years it was, at best, a young tree in Robin Hood’s time, and possibly just an acorn. Such are legends…

Here is a link to a site detailing some of the other famous oaks of Sherwood.




My Favourite Friday


On Friday we planned to visit Sherwood Forest, photograph the oak trees and look for Robin Hood.

Sorry, I’m a bit late wth this – it’s so late on Saturday that it’s almost Sunday.

So much for my good intentions about being more organised and reliable. (And that’s before I reveal that I left my spare batteries at home and had to use the back-up camera).

The plan was that we would get up early and make the best of the light, but their was no light, just a foggy murkiness. So we went back to sleep for another hour. By that time the light was a bit better so we set off for Sherwood Forest. It’s not quite as big as it once was. At one time it covered 115,000 acres: now the country park manages just 450 acres. Royal Forests once covered a third of southern England, including 100% of the counties of Essex and Huntingdonshire.

Fortunately a Royal Forest wasn’t full of trees, which would have made it very awkward for living and farming, they were just areas where Forest Laws took precedence over normal laws. This made life difficult, but still allowed for fields, grazing, marshes and other land without trees.

Anyway, in today’s country park there are around 1,000 ancient oaks, all looking to be on their last legs. Despite this they keep coming back year after year.  The most famous is the Major Oak, around 800 – 1,000 years old and held up by a cradle of wood and iron. It was supposedly a hideout used by Robin Hood, but if it’s only 800 years old it would have only been an acorn at the time.

This is just a selection of photos – as usual  have managed to take too many!