Blimey! How do I do the “King of the Forest” justice in a short paragraph? It really deserves a book. This magnificent tree can live up to thousand years: “300 to grow, 300 to live, 300 to die,” (die meaning a gradual retraction and the shedding of branches). It produces up to ten million acorns in its lifetime. It is a keystone species, which means that it plays an absolutely critical role in its ecosystem, supporting more wildlife than any other native tree. Over the years it has been used as a symbol of strength, morale, resistance and knowledge, featuring heavily in a range of mythologies. It is the national tree of many countries. People have utilized its strength and hardness in all sorts of ways: medieval battleships, the interior panelling of prestigious buildings such as the House of Commons debating chamber; oak furniture, timber-frame houses, flooring, wine barrels and in the smoking of foods such as cheese and fish.
By Neil Griffin Photo by Neil