There is an oak tree in our front garden. Once I would have said “we own an oak tree”, but I’m reconsidering.
Our oak tree- there I go again- must be at least 100 years old. (You can calculate the age from the girth.) We know, thanks to ‘Aunty Grace’ (who would be about 110 if she were still alive) that the area was originally much more heavily wooded than now. One of its charms is how green it is; we worry about each incursion. (See Danger in the Suburbs )
The tree is host to many species. I have been told that there are literally hundreds in an oak. We have squirrels, who seem to be nesting at the top. We have seen pigeons, magpies, crows, blackbirds, thrushes, sparrows, robins, goldfinches, tree creepers and others in and around the tree. (The pigeons are the only ones I have spotted nesting. They are spectacularly messy nest builders. Goodness knows how they actually succeed in reproducing.) Favourites are small flocks of blue-tits, great tits and long-tailed tits, who work through the branches and on down the road. Our neighbour has seen Owls keep him awake and make a mess on the path.
We’ve seen spiders seeming to float in mid-air, suspended by a single thread form a branch. I am no expert, but I know there must be lots and lots of insects. There is lichen and moss; I have no idea what types. There used to be ladies’ tresses orchids underneath, as well as ink cap mushrooms. Sadly, something about our mowing regime has lost them. There are still snake’s head fritillaries, snowdrops and crocuses. On summer’s evenings we have bats zooming round, though I don’t think they are in ‘our’ tree.
Living with a tree makes you more aware of the seasons. In spring- rather late in spring- there will be the lovely flush of new leaves. In autumn of course, they colour and fall; and we are so aware of this as we clear the road again and again. The crop of acorns is very variable. Last year was a glut, or “mast”. The year before we really didn’t see one acorn.
I could go on about the benefits of trees. They clean the air. They improve drainage. They make us feel better. The oak in our garden does all these and much more, and we love it.
We do look after the tree. It has just been trimmed- very necessary for the health and safety of the tree and ourselves- by an expert, very professional team, who were almost respectful of the tree and the resident squirrels. It was dreadfully hacked about some time before we moved in, but has somehow survived.
We didn’t ask its permission for the trimming. We’re not that fanciful. I have never hugged it. I’m not that way inclined. But I do feel we are the guardians of the tree, rather than its owners, if that doesn’t sound too weird. Hopefully others to come will look after it, and its like, for the future.
(Sorry about the title. “An oak tree” sounds too boring.)