Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

The Oak — from shipbuilding to fairies

Newton Wood is a predominately oak woodland below Roseberry Topping. Oak is known as the “King” of trees, with his consort being beech, the “Queen” of the woods.

There are two types of oak trees found in Newton Wood: Sessile and Pedunculate. Sessile oak is the more prevalent, with the oldest being located in the Cliff Ridge Wood end1National Trust North York Moors Ecological Report 2020..

Pedunculate oak trees prefer richer soils, which has led to their clearance in favour of farmland. Sessile oak trees can be distinguished from pedunculate oak trees by their 1-2cm leaf stalk, while pedunculate oaks have a shorter leaf stalk of less than 5mm. Acorn production begins when an oak tree reaches 40 years of age and reaches its peak in trees aged between 80-120 years2Mabey, Richard. “Flora Britannica”. Page 72. Reed International Books Ltd. 1996. ISBN 1 85619 377 2..

The oak is highly valued for its strength and durability, making it a popular choice for shipbuilding3‘The English Oak’. 2017. Historic UK <https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/The-English-Oak/> [accessed 24 March 2023]. It has had a strong association with the navy; Henry VIII’s ship, the Mary Rose, required approximately 600 trees, mostly oaks, representing around 16 hectares (40 acres) of woodland4Wikipedia Contributors. 2023. ‘Mary Rose’, Wikipedia (Wikimedia Foundation) <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Rose#cite_ref-Damian_Goodburn_2009_pp._66_7-0> [accessed 24 March 2023].

The oak tree has always held a special place in people’s hearts, representing strength and truth. In the past, it was believed that fairies lived in oak trees during the summer months. The druids considered a tree to be especially sacred if it contained mistletoe, with the name ‘druid’ meaning ‘oak wisdom’.

Folklore also surrounds acorns, with beliefs that carrying an acorn would guard against disease and promote longevity. Planting an acorn during a new moon was thought to bring wealth, and placing an acorn in a window would protect a house from lightning.






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