The oak tree, perhaps, is the most well-known of all our trees in the UK. Might this be because of the National Trust and Woodland Trust using its leaf in their logo? Or the connection with Robin Hood and his merry men? Or its use in ship building, or for beams in cathedrals?
This particular oak tree grows solid and strong, if a little stunted. It has settled in among rough stony ground on a steep slope that plummets into Wastwater (England’s deepest lake), and has a limited amount of direct sunlight. Stand beneath this tree, though, on the path that winds its way above the lake, and you will – weather permitting – have a breath-taking view towards the highest of England’s peaks. The tree itself seems humble, strong and determined, and supports its own colony of mosses, invertebrates and fungi. In the autumn sun, before the last of the leaves have fallen, this oak blazes in harmony with the bronze fells around it. A single acorn, dropped in this hostile environment, has somehow grown into a majestic tree.
Our First Meeting
We first sat beneath this tree in 2013 after a gruelling walk around the lake. It was March and it was cold. We walked in from the south west, coming in through the mixed woodland at the lake’s end, and skirted the fringes of the lake until we came to the infamous Wasdale Screes, extremely steep slopes covered in boulders. These stones, seemingly hurled down from the mountain tops in a fury, are unevenly shaped and many of them are huge, at least the size of a washing machine. The scree slopes are wide and very, very steep, and on the day we were walking, every boulder was covered with black ice. Gnarly. Let’s just say that coming this way in freezing conditions is not something to be recommended.
On future visits we have come in from the National Trust car park at the northeast end of Wastwater. It is by far the best way to approach the tree – but you will still encounter scree slopes. Where the tree grows, moss, grass and bracken replace the scree, and it is a relative oasis.
The mystery of this oak tree:
How far must an oak’s roots go
into and up the hill to allow it
to thrive on a slope as steep as this?
Walk with us to the Wasdale Oak, August 20, 2016
Join us for a walk along the shore of Wastwater to this oak tree and the grove of birch that flank the shores. For more information, visit The Long View Walks page.
Find out more about the oak
When we write about our visits to this oak, or about oaks in general, we’ll list the blogs here. The collection will continue to grow through 2016 and 2017.