The Oak Tree

Peter France narrates the extraordinary story of a thousand-year-old oak tree in Northumberland - from its germination from an acorn in Anglo-Saxon England to the threats it faces in the 21st century



During an Autumn storm, an oak tree is struck by lightning and sheds the last of its acorn crop. The nuts are scattered across the woodland floor; some rot away, some are eaten and some are buried beneath the leaf litter, where they germinate and give rise to new oak saplings.


The acorn which germinated as a sapling in an Anglo Saxon hedge is now a mature tree. It's winter, and whilst the oak appears lifeless, insects seek out shelter in its fissured bark, squirrels chase one another up and down its trunk and a mistle thrush sings from its highest branch.


It's early spring, and a feeding frenzy begins as the young leaves of the oak break free from the protection of their bud scales; and act as a magnet for hungry caterpillars, which in turn provide food for birds.


It's late spring, and the oak tree canopy is a hive of activity as adult birds flit in and out of the canopy with food for their nestlings. In the early morning, the woodland rings with the sound of the dawn chorus, and later in the day woodpeckers drum on the bark of hollow, ancient oaks.

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It's summer, and the oak tree produces a second crop of leaves: the lammas growth, to replace its now tatty spring canopy. Our 1000-year-old is a majestic tree, dripping with mosses and lichens, but what does the future hold for such an iconic symbol of our landscape?