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Didcot's oaks and other notable trees

Didcot's oaks
 and other notable trees

Into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul – John Muir


A page of inspiring art, verse and quotes relating to trees, woods and forests



by Geoff Bushell

Trees, woods and forests have long inspired humans. Some like to walk amongst them, photograph them, and record the wildlife that lives in them. Some are prompted by the threats they see to get involved in making a difference, whether by lobby or protest, or by lending a hand to care for and protect our natural resources for future generations to enjoy. Some seek to capture the spirit of nature by writing about it, by drawing and painting it, or by composing music about it.

In these times when nature is under such threat from human activity (as evident from images of mass destruction of woods by the HS2 project as this was written, and the knowledge that 14,000 tonnes of Arctic ice is melting every second into Earth's oceans) many now reflect how nature's loss has been brought about by human need and human greed. Even though the tide is turning in awareness that humans rely on the balance of nature in so many ways, there is still no national or international consensus that the loss of nature must be stemmed, and certainly no universal actions agreed or implemented that seem likely to prevent further loss of nature in future. The inconvenient questions that no political leader likes to contemplate, much less mention, are whether there is a balance point where humans can live in harmony with nature, and whether we stand a chance of getting to that point while the world's population continues to rise. Mass extinctions from the past and those happening now suggest that this is a big ask. For now, we must hold to account those who have the power to make a difference, in local and national government and in industry.

Trees, especially large, mature trees, absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, making a crucial contribution towards the reduction of planetary warming, ice cap melting and sea level rise. Their roots ameliorate flood risk by stabilising soil and absorbing water. They provide homes for the biodiversity that we now recognise is so important to food chains, pollination and thus the production of our food. They contribute to the natural landscape we take for granted. They help raise our spirits and maintain our psychological wellbeing. Planting of more trees, as admirably proposed in the Didcot Garden Town project will, in time, contribute to all of these things. But because trees take many decades to mature and develop large leaf canopies and root systems, this may not be in our lifetime, and certainly not in the hour it takes to fell a mature tree that grew in what we now judge to be an inconvenient place, or in a place more profitable if built on.

##Being so large, and taking so many decades to reach their present size – often longer than a human lifespan – brings a sense of awe and of wonder. The beauty of nature, especially in difficult times, brings joy and brings hope. We should savour it and save it.

Trees, woods and forests clearly have a powerful influence on the human mind, but they also hold a key to preserving the ability of humans to continue to thrive on this planet. We should save them as much as we should savour them. On this page we celebrate just a few creative achievements that reflect our passion for nature, and spur us on to protect it for us all to enjoy now, while we can, and for future generations to stand a chance of being able to thrive in future. 

Geoff Bushell, 2021
"Community Tree Champion"


Here we feature works by local artists inspired by trees, woods and forests. Any uses or reproduction must be with the artist's permission.



Woods at Shovel Brook © Linda Benton


Oak at Georgetown Roundabout © Linda Benton


Oak Tree Rookery © Linda Benton


Old Man of the Oak © Linda Benton
Inspired by the oldest oak in Edmonds Park



Below are some atmospheric verses about trees penned by Didcot Writers, a locally-based group whose members enjoy creative writing, and others.

Click / tap photos to enlarge / close


On this spot the last oak stood,
No more its canopy of darkest green,
Its roots and branches gone for good,
As greenhouse gases reign supreme.

Now there's just a sea of mud
As diggers scour and chainsaws scream.
Where all assembled spill its blood
In nature's nightmare, not its dream.

It may be too late to turn back time,
To save the forests, to stop the rot.
There'll be a price paid for this crime
When this world ends, all gone to pot.

But I believe we'll see the light.
We can raise again this final oak.
If not the tree then save its seed.
One day they'll surely see the need?
Gather its acorns, plant them right
And, just in time, our fate revoke.

Maybe I'm a hopeless case,
An optimist who tried too late.
But better that than quit the race
To save the last oak from its fate.

© David Lewis Pogson


They cut the oak tree down
despite its massive girth
the new whips clinging to its trunk,
its passion for rebirth.

It lies prostrate dismembering.
Above the furrowed plaited bark,
cropped jagged twigs are taut as ears,
a blind eye turns up to the lark,

branch stumps cut snub like severed tusks
or open like an empty mouth.
Bulges protrude scaled lizard heads,
a foot-shaped bark shard slipping south.

Inside its gut the fire failed
to render it to charcoal shreds.
Soot smells bear witness to the fire.
Here wood is crumbling into bread.

The split trunk shows dry river beds
where sap was driven to the leaves.
Smooth strata snake along the length,
and halted lava curves and heaves.

Such devastation, but look close,
here other creatures penetrate,
the hollow trunk an entrance where
cream toadstools snugly generate.

© Margaret Gallop 2021
Inspired by the remains of an old tree in Fleet Meadow, Didcot
Photography by Margaret Gallup


Tree so high
As if trying to reach the sky,
You're God's creation.
Standing there,
Branches now bare,
Leaves now gone,
A perch for the bird to sing his song.
With Spring coming,
Your sap is rising.
Leaf and flower buds are flexing.
The days are warm
For this new dawn.
Life all a bustle,
Leaves a rustle.
The sky goes dark,
A lightening spark,
Wind and rain,
A passing storm.
Tree so high,
Trying to reach the sky.
The Maker spoke,
Tree, you're a fine English Oak.

Roger Phipps, East Hagbourne


Sing for the oak-tree,
The monarch of the wood,
Sing for the oak-tree,
That groweth green and good;
That groweth broad and branching
Within the forest shade;
That groweth now, and yet shall grow,
When we are lowly laid!
Sing for the Oak-Tree, The monarch of the wood : Sing for the Qak-Tree, That groweth green and good; That groweth broad and branching Within the forest shade; That groweth now, and yet shall grow When we are lowly laid ! The Oak-Tree was an acorn once, And fell upon the earth; And sun and showers nourished it, And gave the Oak-Tree birth. The little sprouting Oak-Tree! Two leaves it had at first, Till sun and showers had nourished it, Then out the branches burst. The little sapling Oak-Tree! Its root was like a thread, [ocr errors] Till the kindly earth had nourished it, Then out it freely spread: On this side and on that side It grappled with the ground; And in the ancient, rifted rock Its firmest footing found. The winds came, and the rain fell; The gusty tempests blew; All, all were friends to the Oak-Tree, And stronger yet it grew. The boy that saw the acorn fall, He feeble grew and gray ; But the Oak was still a thriving tree, And strengthened every day! Four centuries grows the Oak-Tree, Nor doth its verdure fail ; Its heart is like the iron-wood, Its bark like plated mail. Now, cut us down the Oak-Tree, The monarch of the wood; And of its timbers stout and strong We'll build a vessel good! The Oak-Tree of the forest Both east and west shall fly ; And the blessings of a thousand lands Upon our ship shall lie ! For she shall not be a man-of-war, Nor a pirate shall she be: But a noble, Christian merchant-ship, To sail upon the sea. Then sing for the Oak-Tree, The monarch of the wood; Sing for the Oak-Tree, That groweth green and good; That groweth broad and branching, Within the forest-shade ; That groweth now, and yet shall grow, When we are lowly laid !

Mary Howitt (1799-1888)



A tree is beautiful, but what's more, it has a right to life; like water, the sun and the stars, it is essential. Life on earth is inconceivable without trees. Forests create climate, climate influences peoples' character, and so on and so forth. There can be neither civilization nor happiness if forests crash down under the axe, if the climate is harsh and severe, if people are also harsh and severe – what a terrible future! 

– Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, Russian playwright and short-story writer

Among the scenes which are deeply impressed on my mind, none exceed in sublimity the primeval forests. No one can stand in these solitudes unmoved, and not feel that there is more in man than the mere breath of his body. 

– Charles Darwin, English naturalist, geologist and biologist

And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul. Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods. Sleep in forgetfulness of all ill. 

– John Muir, Scottish-American naturalist, environmental philosopher, botanist, zoologist, glaciologist, and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the USA

I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees. 

– Henry David Thoreau, American naturalist, essayist, poet, and philosopher

It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit. 

– Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish novelist, poet and travel writer

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity, and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself. 

– William Blake, English poet, painter, and printmaker

There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is rapture in the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more. 

– Lord Byron, English peer, poet and politician

Forests are the world's air-conditioning system - the lungs of the planet - and we are on the verge of switching it off. 

– Prince Charles

God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools. 

– John Muir

Humanity is cutting down its forests, apparently oblivious to the fact that we may not be able to live without them. 

– Isaac Asimov, American writer and professor of biochemistry

In studying the fate of our forest king, we have thus far considered the action of purely natural causes only; but, unfortunately, man is in the woods, and waste and pure destruction are making rapid headway. If the importance of the forests were even vaguely understood, even from an economic standpoint, their preservation would call forth the most watchful attention of government. 

– John Muir

It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living. The truth is: the natural world is changing. And we are totally dependent on that world. It provides our food, water and air. It is the most precious thing we have and we need to defend it. It's surely our responsibility to do everything within our power to create a planet that provides a home not just for us, but for all life on Earth. 

– Sir David Attenborough, English broadcaster and natural historian

Wanderer's Nightsong II

O'er all the hilltops
Is quiet now,
In all the treetops
Hearest thou
Hardly a breath;
The birds are asleep in the trees:
Wait, soon like these
Thou too shalt rest. 

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German poet, playwright, novelist, scientist and statesman
– Translation by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, American poet and educator

Source of many of these quotes: Jared Jeric dela Cruz in 199 Wonderful and Inspiring Quotes on Woods and Forests