So, as I begin this journey, it seems appropriate to begin with an explanation for the title “In The Shadow Of The Oak”…
About a decade or so ago, my parents moved away from city life to a much more rural location in Devon. On a trip to visit them there, I can recall having a conversation with my Mum, during which she asked me if I could ever see myself living somewhere like that. My reply was a definite no. As far as I was concerned the countryside was quiet, dull, and lacking in facilities and entertainment.
Well, fast forward a few years, and I find myself making the concious decision to move away from city life, both personally and professionally, relocating our home to the Forest of Dean, and now living in a lovely rural area in a very old cottage.
In addition I have been further developing my interest in the natural world, history and pre-Christian religions. It is these things, together with the area in which we live that have inspired that title of this site.
The oak tree is the national tree of England, and has been important throughout history, not least with regard to religion.
It is generally accepted that England as we know it first started to take shape during Anglo-Saxon times. At that point in history, the population was made up of a mixture of indigenous Romano-Britons and Germanic tribes who had migrated from Continental Europe.
Prior to the Christianisation of England in the 7th century, the Anglo-Saxons were pagans with a polytheistic faith, worshipping many deities.
The most popular god appears to have been Woden, counterpart of the Norse god Odin. Woden was said to have been the leader of the Wild Hunt, as well as a healer.
The second most widespread god was Thunor, whose Norse counterpart is Thor, a hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning, storms, oak trees, strength and the protection of the common man.
In this period of history the oak tree was regarded as the Tree of Life, as it’s deep roots penetrate the Underworld and it’s branches reach high into the sky.
We also believe it is likely that the oak tree was sacred to the Druids, who have always been associated with sacred groves and particularly oak forests.
More specifically, the Forest of Dean is home to the largest stock of mature oak in the country. This is in part due to the English naval hero, Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson.
Lord Nelson visited the Forest in 1802 looking for shipbuilding timber and became concerned by the diminishing stocks of oak.
As a result, thirty million acorns were planted, although by the time they were sufficiently grown, shipbuilding had moved on to use iron and steel.
Our home lies surrounded in all directions by trees, and not far from here is the site of the Newland Oak.
This remarkable tree is known to have been in place for at least two hundred years, and was recorded as being 46ft in girth before the elements took their toll in the 1950s and 1960s. It is estimated that the tree was around one thousand years old, and has been succeeded by a new oak grown from a cutting of the original that was almost 23ft high and over 2ft in girth when measured in 2000.
It is, therefore, fitting that I offer my thoughts and musings from the idyllic setting that I have found in the Shadow of the Oak.