15 October, 2007

Trees Lounge

A visit to Kew Gardens last weekend to see the magnificent exhibition of 28 monumental Henry Moore sculptures installed around the landscape. If you can get there the exhibition is highly recommended, and is on until March when the lorries will cart them away again.

An interesting tree at Kew is the impressive Lucombe Oak, Quercus x hispanica . It is a semi-evergreen hybrid of the cork oak and Turkey oak, and was first raised around 1765 by William Lucombe, a nursery man of Exeter. Lucombe cut down the original hybrid in 1785, and decided to keep some of the timber to cut into planks his coffin. He stored the wood under his bed for this purpose. Things did not quite go according to plan, as Lucombe lived to 102, by time the timber under his bed had decayed in the damp Devon atmosphere. Undeterred, he replaced the timber with another graft, and was buried in a Lucombe Oak coffin.

Whilst on the subject of historic trees, the creepy looking Big Belly Oak (see picture) is a 1000-year old tree in the Savernake forest near Marlborough, Wiltshire. This is a remnant of one of the ancient "royal forests" going back to the Norman kings. The BBC Wiltshire website recounts the legend that the devil can be summoned by anyone dancing naked twelve times around the tree. In Tudor times the forest's steward was John Seymour, and Henry VIII may well have courted his daughter Jane in the forest: "Henry dear, will you stop running round that tree; I'm sure he would have appeared by now !"

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