12 October 2010


It started with this oak at Danson Park which I noticed when we took my mum there for tea a few weeks ago.  It is a very fine tree, and when I got closer to it I saw a notice on it which described it as the Charter Oak, one of the Great Trees of London.  The charter in question is nothing more exciting than the charter which created Bexley as a Municipal Borough in 1937 - thrilling, eh?  However, it put me on to other Great Trees of London.  I'm rather ashamed of not knowing about them earlier, especially as my son works for Trees for Cities, the charity involved in identifying the great trees.  It was when we went along to see him walk (ahem) the Tree-athlon that I bought the book and found myself planning jaunts around London to visit the great trees.  Some of them I've seen already - the mulberry tree at Charlton House has already appeared on these pages.  And we were familiar with "our fig" at Stratford.  But, oh, the tree goodness in that book!

It's early days yet, but I think that the first tree on our visit list - the North Circular Cork Oak - may take some beating.  That a cork oak stands so incongruously placed on this busy road is down to a bit of vanity planting by the owners of a linoleum factory, now disappeared.  The road must have crept closer and closer to the site so that now the tree's existence is an act of defiance, standing alone in a fenced enclosure, the busy road on one side and a retail park and industrial estate behind.

The fence is broken - car crash, probably - and as I was trying to squeeze through a passer-by tried to help me out and I had to explain that I was trying to climb in to see the tree, that I had come especially to see it.  He looked at up in awe - "Never noticed it before" he said "All the times I've walked past. Well, I never."  Inside, you get to see and touch the glorious corkiness of the bark and, out of sight, you can even give it a hug.  In spite of the discarded drink cans, the weeds and traffic passing by, it was like being in a magical space.

We made out way back home that day via the Wood Street Horse Chestnut and the George Green Sweet Chestnut, once home to protesters against the A12 extension.  It still looks a little sad.

There more oaks to visit- the oaks of Fairlop and Fulham Palace, the Dulwich Park Turkey Oak, the Valence Park Holm Oak - and we'll make our way to them in due course, no doubt.  While I'm waiting I will indulge in virtual oaky outings - Marlene's oak jewellery and the corsets and haberdashery of  Fleur Oakes.  


knit nurse said...

Tree-athlon. Love it! A sport I might actually be good at!

Rattling On said...

I love photographing trees, especially the bark. They all have such personality. We are members of the Woodland Trust and said if we ever came into money we'd buy a piece of land and just plant trees on it.

jane said...

Oh that trees of London site is brilliant - I do love trees, they so characterise a place.