According to the Tithe Map of 1840 there has been a woods along the river walk and orchard route that I take each day with Izabel and Defi, for many more years than what has passed between now and then. The ancient woodlands have large old trees and ground growing woodland flowers such as wood anemone, wood millet, wood speedwell and goldilocks buttercup, all of which belong to an ancient woodlands.
My favourite tree of all these flora, and fauna that run above and below me; apparently there has been sightings of the rare Noble Chafer beetle, he who inhabits the ancient woodlands and lives as a recluse amongst beetles, leading a traditional beetling life, or so I have read, I am not sure if I have seen him out and about during our daily walks but, who knows maybe he is peeking out from behind the Old Man Oak, watching us walk past and listening as we tell our secrets to the Old Man himself.
|Noble Chafer Beetle|
So, my favourite of all these trees is the Old Man Oak, as I have named him, he that stands tall and proud opposite the orchard that have been growing apples in this area since the early 1800's with various agricultural experiments being tried and tested over time to produce the best apple for cider making that our rich and fertile soil can provide.
Each day I walk past the Old Man, and feel a great need to touch him, to feel grounded again, on days when my mind is swimming in ideas or turmoil, I rest my back against him and gaze through his old limbs above my head into the sky and whisper my hopes and fears whilst Iz and Defi sniff and snuffle maybe following the scent of the elusive Noble Chafer beetle.
I find great solace in the peace that surrounds the Old Man, his age is said to be around 300-350 years old, that's a lot of knowledge and wisdom he must have acquired, not to mention the moonlight trysts, he must have seen, of young lovers meeting near the vicarage which is just a short distance away, or going for a midnight stroll along the banks of the River Wye, on a hot and barmy night in the middle of summer. The arguments of families, he must have heard, as they weave their way through the woodland on the old path that has seen many feet, the small children dragging theirs through the mud and dust at the horror of being dragged away from the modern world, their lust for electronics removing any desire for fresh air and scurrying squirrels.
The orchards in lines, as they have been for many years, bearing fruit to harvest, stand, as youngsters, opposite the Old Man. How many harvests has he seen? The good and the bad?
How many stories does he hear? The secrets? whispers? dreams? Does he listen to mine as he has done to those that have stood with their back to him for many years?
How can one tree mean so much to so many people? I hear from those that are like me, who find the Old Man Oak a 'real' person, the psychiatrist, shrink, friend, parent.....