Introducing a very old friend...

Introducing a very old friend...

Several years ago I found myself wandering a little lost on former farmland near our house and I stumbled upon the most incredible tree I have ever seen. It is an oak and it’s simply massive! We measured it using the method recommended by the Woodland Trust and found that its circumference is 6m 70cm which makes it over 500 years old! Just think of all that this tree has seen! It was a sapling before King Henry VIII was born! 

During lockdown I began daily pilgrimages to the oak. Looking up into its massive reaching branches and leaning against its trunk became essential grounding in an otherwise unsettling time. The land on which it stands was completely overgrown and the wildness and wildlife was an incredible treat in these intensively farmed fen flatlands. 

wise old oak 1Then in the midst of lockdown came the news that the farmhouse and its land, including where the oak stands was up for sale. And of course as it is privately owned, access to the public could be stopped at any time, the land could be developed and the tree could even be chopped down.

This was like punch in the guts in the midst of a very challenging time. Obviously I wasn’t the only one who felt this way because the village rallied. There was much concern locally about the future of the site. The wild fields are home to turtle doves, foxes, badgers, rabbits, deer, goldfinches, water voles and a myriad of other native creatures. 

wise ols oak 4Thankfully this ended us as a good news story, Abbey Fields group was formed and managed to buy two out of the three parts that the land had been divided into; for the community to preserve it as a wild refuge.

The old oak was an obvious subject for a series of paintings. Not only did my daily visits to it keep me sane, but the actual painting process, getting up each morning before my family woke up to steel some hours in the studio in the frosty morning light was a discipline that literally helped me cope with the stresses and demands of lockdowns.

wise old oak 5I have tried to capture the feeling of the tree’s enormity, looking up into the canopy, the subtle colours and textures in its bark, the tingly feeling that the tree gives me when I stand next to it, or in its hollow. The sensation that it’s somehow communicating is represented with a subtle white layer of pattern that reaches out from the branches.

It is humbling and precious to be allowed to revere this ancient warden of East Anglia. It has lived through many periods of human turmoil and persists with its cycle of seasons, helping us feel the transience of our situation. But whilst it might feel like a permanent guardian of the area its future and fortune depends on us; often fickle and irreverent humans. That it stands on private land is a blessing and a curse. It has not been "managed" so the three of its massive branches it shed were left to rot down to feed it. However, there are nails hammered into the trunk, graffiti scratched into the bark, metal and other rubbish high up in its canopy. Some fool actually started a fire in its hollow trunk; more than once! Amazingly the tree survived, but it bears scorch marks to tell the tale.

wise old oak 2Whatever is in store for this old soul, these paintings are my offering of gratitude to the tree and a record of the solace it brought me during the bleak winter of the Covid pandemic.

Click on the paintings to see how each was created, or click here to see an introduction to the collection. 

Check out the Original Paintings or High Quality Art Prints and Greetings cards and notebooks

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