Approximately 400 years ago this oak tree was a little sapling and the first barrels of cured tobacco were arriving in England from Virginia.  Now children hide inside its hollow trunk, cricketers use it as a boundary marker and walkers sit under it for a spot of shade but if it hadn't been for the ancient art of pollarding it may not have survived at all.

Pollarding dates back to mediaeval times and involves the regular removal of the top of the tree.  The original idea was to cut anything above eight to ten feet in order to provide wood for the locals and prevent grazing sheep and cattle from eating any tender new shoots.  The pruning also slows down the rate of growth and increases the trees life. Bizarrely it also means that growth only occurs in the outer layers, immediately under the bark, which allows the central heart to rot away.  These hollow trunks then provide a haven for insects and it's believed that the short cylindrical shape is far stronger than a normal tree.  A fact proved by the hurricane of 1987.  

 

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