Saving an ancient Oak tree in the 1960’s

Full Oak treeIn the 1960s my father-in-law Geoff Duckworth, was the assistance chief engineer for Ramsbottom District Council. One of his responsibilities was the construction of new roads as the town began to expand. The widening of Summerseat Lane was needed as a new housing Estate was in the planning, the route of the existing lane would have required the felling of an ancient oak tree. The idea of tree preservation was a introduced in 1947 and was yet to be widely adopted throughout the United Kingdom.

My father-in-law recognised this tree was important and also beautiful, and insisted that it be saved for future generations. This meant changing the route of the road, so instead of going behind the tree the new road went in front, is also softened the corner. The old lane is now overgrown (see photo) and runs behind a house built in the 1970s.

GrandpaI estimate that the trees over 250 years, it has been thoughtfully maintained over the last 50 years and has matured into a pleasing silhouette, with excellent trunk movement… quite Bonsai’ish. My son Sam considers it a tree perfect for climbing and as William, in the “Just William” stories proclaimed, “there are two types of tree, those you can climb and those you cannot.”

This majestic Oak is part of the history of the village, I am proud that there is a link between an ancient English Oak and my children, and the legacy left by Grandpa.

Take a look on Google maps here.

The Old overgrown Lane the New Road Sam and Grandpa inside the Oak

Old Oak 1

Why nature is the best teacher when creating bonsai

An important learning tool in my box when teaching bonsai is telling students to get out into the wilds and see old and ancient trees in their natural habitat. It’s not enough to read the books, visit the shows or surf the web for inspiration, being out in the wild walking the hills and mountains is crucial to understanding the natural growing habits of our native trees.

In my early years with bonsai I remember creating a juniper bonsai with deadwood and receiving a snide comment from a long standing club member “I have never seen a tree with white wood before” my retort was that he should look beyond the trees in the local park.

There is no substitute for standing under an ancient and appreciating all the human history that the tree has witnessed plus the hundreds of harsh winters, cold winds and blistering sun that has created the beauty of the living specimen.

Earlier this week I took a walk in the hills with a close friend and naturally I took my camera, along with taking photos of trees, I record bark, branch structure, root spread and aspect.

Here is a VERY old Oak tree that was perched on a granite outcrop in the bottom of a glacial valley, the root bole was over 5 meters circumference and the tree less than 7 meters in height, as you can see from the photos, no wire or pruning has taken place to create this amazing tree.

The last photo is another Oak on the same outcrop. The way that the trunk spreads over the stone is fascinating and a great ‘model’ to work towards when creating this style of bonsai.

Old Oak 2 Old Oak 3 Old Oak 4 Old Oak 5


An ancient Oak through the seasons Animation

These images were sent to me ages ago, I have been wondering what to do with them, I do not know who sent them to me so I cannot credit the photographer (they are watermarked but I cannot make out what it is)… they are rather good and it must have take a lot of patience and skill to get them so perfectly in position

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