Graceful ancient trees like these are part of our nation and culture. They’re a reminder of that ‘tree-delighted Eden’ (C.S.Lewis’s phrase) that lies in the back of our collective memories. They’re living histories, with a story to tell written into their annual growth rings.
What could be better than standing under this oak in a woodland clearing on a sunny summer day. With relaxing greenery all around, on a hot day this is a most welcome retreat, well away from the traffic. As the leaves rustle gently in the breeze and the sunlight plays its broken shadow tracery on the gnarled bark of this ancient tree, time seems to stand still. I breathe in the fresh, oxygen-filled air of this delightful piece of woodland and relish and embrace the peaceful atmosphere of this place of sylvan beauty.
I love trees and have planted many in all the gardens that I have had. I couldn’t be without them all around.
These great trees have been our constant companions over centuries, cleaning our atmosphere, storing carbon, and controlling climate. Constantly maintained, they have provided employment and a vital resource of wood for a multitude of uses. They have been home to hundreds of insects, birds and other wildlife.
New Forest oaks like these were used at the local Buckler’s Hard where many of the ships of Nelson’s fleet at Trafalgar were built. John Evelyn famously wrote of them as our nations ‘wooden walls’.
Each wood, coppice or (Sussex) furze has its own identity. Many are named, showing that, over the years, they’ve been adopted and treasured by local people. A close look at the names given to each copse or wood in an Ordnance Survey map makes fascinating reading. There will be some interesting stories behind each name.
Treasure our Trees
According to the wise old Chinese proverb,
‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.’
Tree planting is a long-term investment. I sowed this Indian Bean (Catalpa) about 20 years ago and planted it here in 2004. Last year we planted a true fruiting Quince (Cydonia) to mark our 40th wedding anniversary. So we’ve just about got it right!
Sadly we’ve lost far too many trees. Woodland now only covers a mere 13% of the UK, half of this is in Scotland where much of it is conifer plantation. This is a shocking statistic for a country that was once covered in woodlands. The average tree cover in the EU countries is 37% . Only Holland and Denmark have less tree cover than the UK. However, in recent years we’ve come to realise the problem. The public outcry in 2011 at the proposed sale of our publicly owned Forest areas was an encouraging sign.
Now, bodies like The Woodland Trust and The Forestry Commission are leading the way to preserve what remains of our natural woodlands. See the most interesting Woodland Trust survey of the state of the UK’s forests,woods and trees
We must treasure our trees. They teach us so many lessons. They’re such calming oases in an over-busy and so transient modern world. We need those that are left to us and many more.
My Eternal Significance
These giant trees that were here long before me, and will be here long after my earthly life is over, give cause for thought. Standing next to them brings home to me the shortness of life.
Yet, as a believer in Jesus, the trees inspire me and remind me of my eternal significance. Despite their comparative permanence, as a child of God through faith in Christ, I will outlive them all !
As a gardener it inspires me that the story of the Bible begins in that long-lost garden (Eden) that was full of trees, including the Tree of Life. It ends in that garden’s restoration in the garden city of ‘Paradise’, where the leaves of that same Tree of Life ‘bring healing to the nations’ (Revelation 22 v 1-2)
What was at first denied to us all, has now become freely available for all who believe in Jesus who promised:
‘To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat of the fruit of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God..’ (Revelation 2 verse 7)
In a way, with their roots in the soil and their tops in the ‘heavens’, the trees are showing us the way.
Yes, the Christian believer is destined to live again in a restored ‘tree-delighted Eden’ with our Creator in heaven. What a glorious prospect !
They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour.’ (Isaiah’s Old Testament prophecy – 61 verse 3)