Oak – The Wood of Britain

Ancient oak forests have always held a special place in our hearts, and it has even been said that England was built on oak. People would carry acorns for good luck, and they were thought to ward off illness. The ancient Greeks and Romans, Celts and Druids all believed the tree held magical powers, with Roman soldiers wearing oak leaf crowns when celebrating a victory.

As a member of the Beech family, it’s formal name is the Pedunculate Oak and it is our national tree due to its beauty, longevity and strength. Some oak trees are so old that they date back to the interglacial period of around 300,000 years ago and yet remain the most common tree in British woodland.

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Oak is most commonly found in the South and East of England and features such a familiar leaf shape, that it’s almost a national symbol. Majestically spreading out if it has the space to do so, the tree grows very deep roots so can withstand drought conditions. They also don’t mind being waterlogged too much either, meaning they have incredible resilience, even for long periods and in salty water!

Some of the tallest oak trees you see are younger than 300 years old. Older trees used to be pollarded a lot to gather timber and firewood for construction. The biggest tree ever recorded in the UK was the Newlands Oak which measured a whopping 45 feet in girth. Sadly, it fell down. The biggest tree still in existence can be found in Sherwood Forest and has a girth of 33 feet. It is believed to be between 800 and 1,000 years old.

Oak is incredibly durable, and you can still buy oak furniture from the 1300s. It is this durability that makes it the wood of choice for making frames for buildings. It is also used for barrel-making for spirits and wines and in the making of charcoal. Why not use oak for your next project? For a Bespoke Oak Carport, visit http://www.bespoaktimberframes.co.uk

Thankfully, oak trees grow quickly as in the 18th century, oak was in great demand for shipbuilding. The ships built during the time of Nelson and Drake used up around 2,500 trees for each ship. They grow faster in the first 80-120 years, which was handy for shipbuilding as it meant they didn’t have to wait for hundreds of years for fresh timber.

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An oak tree doesn’t produce acorns until it’s aged to about 30-40 years old. When it reaches old age, which is considered to be around 250-350 years of age, it begins to decline, growth slows down, and it will start to lose branches.

There was a dire oak shortage during the First World War which led to the creation of the Forestry Commission. Their aim was to protect all existing woodland and to establish new ones. Thankfully, a huge number of new woodland areas have since been planted, replenishing the oak tree and returning the land to its former beauty and heritage. Oak remains one of the most popular and sought after hardwoods used in Britain today, for everything from joinery and furniture to oak frames and carports.

 

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