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Walking in the leafy fields surrounding Quarr Abbey, on the north of the Island, the Ranger discovered a spectacular and sorry sight: a great veteran field-oak had succumbed to the recent storms and split asunder, with both sides having crashed into the ground.
One side is broken off entirely, and the fragment that is still standing is profoundly fractured. In the season the field is normally the home to beef cattle, and so any regrowth from the stump will be so low as to be browsed off. So it’s unlikely that the tree will long survive this last, dramatic chapter in a life that has spanned centuries. The scale of the destruction is hard to capture in photos, so take a look at this video – and see if you can spot me in it!
The tree had fallen a couple of days beforehand, but surprisingly, nobody had been out and ‘cleared it up’. The usual mania for tidying farmland was in abeyance for once, maybe because it wasn’t a public place, and no animals were in the field. As it was, though, the smaller animals that lived in and on the tree were enjoying the unseasonably warm sun as usual – unaware that they would be the very last of a long line to enjoy a home their ancestors had sheltered in for hundreds of years.
The tree had come to a natural end, and a fitting one – after a pretty good innings. What’s more, there are a few other oaks in the surrounding fields coming along which maybe eventually will share the same fate. So it’s not a complete disaster.
This tree recently featured in the Ryde Histree Trail, a project run by the council to draw attention to important and historic trees. The trail leaflet reads:
In this field stand two veteran Oak trees, very much local landmarks and well loved trees. They are among the largest Oaks on the Island and are thought to be around 300 years old. The largest of the pair [the one that fell] is getting on for an impressive seven metres in girth. It likely to be of a similar age to the other tree but may owe its colossal size to its proximity to the nearby stream. The smaller of the two trees has had its crown significantly reduced in size by natural branch breakage. This process is known as’retrenchment’ and occurs in old age when annual ring growth reduces and the tree produces less foliage. This large open-grown Oak will ultimately die back over a period of years, maybe decades, shedding large limbs which the tree will not be able to replace. It is said that an Oak tree grows for 300 years, spends 300 years resting, then takes 300 years to decline.
So if you’re on the Island and want to see the site of this tree, and many others still standing in the area, then you can download the Ryde Histree Trail map and guide for free – and seven others covering most of the Island.