This morning I took the car down to the garage for servicing and MOT and walked back. On the way I composed a haibun in my head. This afternoon I will make the reverse trip and return with a heavy heart and a light wallet. I will compose a lament on the drive back.
When I returned I carried on with the reading and replying that I started last night. I particularly enjoyed this one, which led to me finding this.
I have had a telephone consultation with a nurse practitioner at the Treatment Centre and she has ensnared me with another blood test. I thought I was free of them for a month or two. Ah well. My pills will be ready for me too. After that they will release me to the care of my GP. They haven’t been distinguished for their efficiency recently so I’m not looking forwards to this.
If you will excuse me, I really need to write down the haibun while it is still in my head. They do tend to melt away these days unless I am careful.
Oak Tree – Quercus Robur
A single oak tree can support over 400 species – the most biodiverse plant in the UK.
The sun is draping itself gently on the rooftops of Nottingham as I stare out of the window at the back of the house and try to look like a writer. There’s still a while before sunset and the sky has not yet taken on any colour, but I am a patient man and I live in hope. It’s low enough to light up the trees in the garden and it is doing a particularly fine job of lighting up the variegated holly which are looking quite spectacular tonight.
The view, rather like the Amazon, has been deforested over the years.
On our left the neighbour removed an ornamental plum and a crab apple tree, as well as ripping up their lawn and spreading the garden with gravel. They also pushed over our laburnum tree when they had a new fence put up. It didn’t need moving, but they had never liked it and used to hack at it whenever they got a chance. I can’t, of course, prove that it was done with malice, but I’m pretty sure that this was the case.
Small Tortoiseshell on Red Valerian
That same corner was the site of a strange case of forsythia die-back, a disease that only seems to have existed in one corner in one particular garden in the country. A man give to muttering dark things about his neighbours might justifiably think that they had poured something through the gap in the fence to poison his plants.
When I win the lottery I am going to fit this house with a high-powered sound system and it out to students. This will be my revenge. I’m also going to fit water feature and wind chimes – let’s see how they like it.
To be fair, they do still have two Leylandii, which are the only trees, apart from ours, in a six garden area.
Over the years a couple of birches have disappeared from a garden at the back of us, supposedly removed because they were rotten. They looked good when they were cut, and they haven’t been replaced.
The worst loss was the hawthorn. It looked to me to be shared between four gardens because it had grown at the junction of the fences but one of the neighbours took it on himself to remove it one day and that was that.
That was a really bad day for biodiversity. We frequently used to have nesting birds in that tree – mainly blackbirds.
The neighbours on the other side, the ones who used to complain regularly, took several trees out too, though apart from a few Leylandii I can’t remember what they had. They were the ones that reported me to the the local Community Support Officer because of the brambles, the overhanging plums and the leaves which blew into her garden. She actually wanted me to cut the trees down to stop the leaves and the plums dropping in her garden.
As I pointed out, you can’t stop leaves (and there couldn’t have been many of them) and I thought of the plums as giving them free fruit, rather than being a nuisance. You can’t help some people.
The brambles, you say? Yes, I admit they are a nuisance, but several of them were actually coming from their garden into ours under the fence. A previous gardener seems to have had cultivated blackberries in the garden and they have always been rampant. And juicy. I suppose some people just don’t like fresh fruit.
We’re not savages, by the way, and not even particularly bad neighbours, despite the way things may sound, so we did cut the brambles and the plum branches. Couldn’t stop the leaves though.
That leaves our garden as the only one making an effort for nature. We have a privet, which I confess was a mistake, the holly, a plum, the one we don’t know the name of, and a Leylandii. This needs topping as it is really too big for the garden now, but most years we have pigeons nesting in it and I never get round to it. We also have a couple of apple trees in pots but I always feel guilty about them as they look so dispirited. I really must give them some compost.
I didn’t really mean to run on about the deforestation of back gardens and the drive to force out wildlife, but I did. Sorry about the crusading, but I just don’t know why people don’t just live in flats, or even dungeons, if they hate trees and wildlife so much.
It’s an outdoor space full of birds and insects and even animals and kids. It’s not an extension of the living room. You can tell the difference because of the absence of carpets, though I’ve recently seen astroturf on sale in a garden centre so even that distinction is being blurred. I’ve been thinking that I really must get on top of the garden next year. And plant more trees.
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.
Holding up the Major Oak
Ancient oak in Sherwood Forest
Strapping to hold an oak together
ncient Oaks of Sherwood
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.