Struggling to come here for years, I was escorted yesterday by Michael, driven down, lunched at the refurbished Oyster and walked, dogless. It was magnificent and we both vowed to return in the winter when both the trees and land would be naked their great structures more visible.
It’s a privately owned 80 acres of mature pollarded oaks planted around 4-500 years ago. Not surprisingly a SSSI. The forest floor is carpeted by low growing ferns, so we could see through the wood to the receding forms like an ancient army of petrified oaks. Each one had a story, a life lived and still living. Twisted, hollowed, with bulbous boils, some stage headed with naked limbs, some leaning but holding. They were the stuff of Tolkins Hobbit land, children’s stories, imagination. Up close, I followed thick bark skins like earth geology that rounded old wounds, battle scars from a far back storm or long gone canker, the old survivor.
There were occasional patches of very old birches also scabbed with age.
Beside the oaks on the other side of the track are the Thicks a denser wood with hollies some of them thought to be the largest in Britain.
Oliver Rackam – Woodland – Staverton…is one of the biggest collections of ancient trees in Europe: oaks of vast bulk and surrealist shape, giant hollies, giant birches, trees that are part oak, part holly and part birch, and a hundred years’ accumulation of dead wood. Besides its unique qualities as a habitat, Staverton is a place of mystery and wonder; it has a peculiar effect on first-time visitors who have no foreknowledge that the world contains such places.
Looking up Oliver Rackham and Staverton I came across a fine blog, which references Sara Maitland’s ‘Gossip from the Forest: The Tangled Roots of Our Forests and Fairytales’ (ordered immediately) and quotes from it:
The oak woods at Staverton are the forests of childhood, the forests of dreams. Here perhaps more than anywhere else I have ever been, the forest of the imagination materialises, becomes actual; here perhaps more than anywhere else I have ever been, a smallish piece of ancient deciduous woodland opens into the world of magic, the place of fairy story that we inhabited as children and lost, I had thought, for ever.
Good photos, many of which I recognised. The Oyster Inn at that time was in disrepair, in contrast to our time, painted in farrow and ball french grey.
Only one photo of Michael who finally got me here – why did I forget? – and a back view!
An abandoned log cabin, once made with care and love now lilted into the sandy fern and bramble covered earth and I wondered if mine too would one day become abandoned like that.