Heart of oak...

by David Swatton September. 21, 2018 527 views

In the hills above our village we are blessed with some wonderful old oak trees and there is truly something magical about them which has long been recognised. The heart of the oak is the strongest part of the tree and that phrase was used for the song which became the official march of the Royal Navy, the force that essentially built the British Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries using ships built of oak. But there are echoes of a veneration of the oak in our much more distant history.

The oak is associated with the spirituality of ancient religions, especially the Druids, although we know next to nothing about them – please discount the white-robed, hand-holding mumbo-jumbo promoted by modern Druidry which is essentially a pre-Raphaelite Victorian imagining of romanticised nonsense. Yet it is thought the Druids worshipped and practised their rites in oak groves (the word Druid was possibly a Gaelic derivation of their word for oak, Duir, and meant men of the oaks) and they had strongholds in the west of England and in Wales. Almost every hill top around here has an ancient hill fort on top so it’s easy to imagine a Druid powerbase being centred in this area.

I’ve always liked connections with the past especially when reinforced by these fundamental elements in the landscape and in nature.

And I’ve also got a more practical liking for oak as the house I live in is oak framed, the timbers evidently having been re-used from previous structures so who knows how old some of them might be…

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There are 6 comments , add yours!
Ram Ya 12 months ago

Very well composed. Thanks for sharing, David.

12 months ago Edited
Jay Boggess 12 months ago

If only this venerable oak could tell the tales of times witnessed........
Great subject, perspective, composition & background info!

12 months ago Edited

Impressive tree!
If you have a close look, you will see a face between the two spread arms! Maybe ... But this is another story to be told!

Your house must be the dream of every dendrochronology expert.

1 year ago Edited
David Swatton Replied to Sigrid Strohschneider-Laue 1 year ago

OMG, now that I look, I can see The Scream by Edvard Munch!!!! Druid spirits are alive and well and living in trees in Herefordshire!

Regarding my house, it was built in the mid 17th century at around the time that the castle on the hill above the village was demolished during the English Civil Wars. It's thought that a lot of material from the castle was taken by locals for "new" buildings - if it's the case that timbers from the castle were used in the house then those timbers could date from easily two or three hundred years earlier as the castle was founded in 1086 and was expanded and developed until the early 1400s. You wouldn't guess it now from the ruins but in about 1300 the castle was one of the mightiest fortresses in the country so there would have been lots of material to rob!

1 year ago Edited
Sigrid Strohschneider-Laue Replied to David Swatton 1 year ago

Did you hear my big jealous SIGH?!
I worked once at two excavations, where during medieval times the settlers had brought the baulks with them. A century or so the leaving people took the used baulks and beams from their houses with them to rebuilt it at the next settlement. It's lot of work and expensive to get strong wooden walls and roofs. Nobody wanted to leave it behind. Not much left to document, but small basic stone walls.
Reused items is the most interesting part in buildings - think about your garden wall with this build in piece of a tombstone!

1 year ago Edited
Marilyn Grimble 1 year ago

So full of power! Love your historical addition too. Mx

1 year ago Edited
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