Wednesday 23 May 2012

Robin Hood's Oak/ the Major‘s Oak

This is the Major Oak a large English Oak (Quercus robur) located in the heart of the Sherwood Forest Country Park in Nottingham. This tree is thought to be between 800 and 1,000 years old and according to lore Robin Hood and his Merry Men used its hollow trunk as a hideout. I paid a visit to Sherwood Forest to see it for myself and I am pleased that I did. In the mid 18th century, it was actually known as the Cockpen Tree because of the hollow interior that was said to have been used to pen cockerels for cock fighting. It later became known as the Queen Oak before Major Hayman Rooke (1723 –1806) included the tree in his book about the ancient oaks of Sherwood in 1790 and it then became known as The Major‘s Oak, and subsequently the Major Oak. It became a tourist attraction in the Victorian times and has brought flocks of tourist in ever since. In a 2002 it was listed as one of fifty Great British Trees and voted “Britain’s favourite tree” and quite right too! I believe the first time that I heard about it was during the 1980’s watching Blue Peter in a segment that involved its conservation. I have a vague memory of them discussing the possibility of preserving the tree under a dome. The image of an entire tree (and Robin Hood’s tree no less!) being preserved under a dome instantly fired up my imagination! The dome never happened, but attempts to preserve it are still ongoing, a fence was installed to protect the roots and as you can see from the photo steel pole struts have been placed all around to support its heavy branches. Although collecting the Major Oak’s acorns is forbidden some have, and descendants of the tree exist (The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry has one on campus) back in 2003, 260 saplings grown from the Major Oak’s acorns were transplanted onto seven acres of land in Dorset in the hope of creating an Oak Forest for the future. Find out more about it here and if you are ever in Nottingham take the time to visit Sherwood Forest and see this legendary tree for yourself!

2015 Update: I visited again in December 2014 with a better camera…

© Arfon Jones 2012. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

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