We went to an ancient woodland this evening.
Driving past Nuney Green, there’s a stretch of forest called Gutteridge Wood.
It feels primeval here.
Among the straight beeches and fickle holly, there stood oak giants.
And here the old boys stand as they have stood for centuries.
As we trod the beech litter below, a deer darted through the green ahead of us. It’s an open wood, free of briars, thickets and thorns.
Gnarled crowns above shade much of the forest floor below.
But deer were not the only creatures living here.
In one place, we heard a sound and looked over to see a tarp neatly set up near a great trunk. Someone had been here. For how long we didn’t know.
As we continued down the muddy path, our guide matter of factly informed us that we were walking past a saw-pit.
A long-abandoned pit where Englishmen had once pit-sawn Gutteridge Wood oaks and beeches into boards, planks, and house timbers. Who knows how long since it had last been used.
The pit itself was roughly 14′ long and 6′ wide. It showed no signs of timber being used to shore up its sides but seemed to be a simply dug affair with tapered sides. Likely, it was significantly deeper before years of neglect had filled it in. It was close to the path which would facilitate transport of trees to and fro the pit.
Would you like to see the best tree in the wood? our guide asked.
My mind was already blown by the saw-pit.
We turned down Deadman’s Lane, past boundary ditches and into Hall Hill Wood. (All the woods here are named).
After a brief walk we passed yet another saw-pit towards the biggest oak of all–
The King of Hall Hill Wood.
Quietly majestic, this giant had seen hundreds of winters–as well as sawyers–come and go. And still it stood.
There was at least 45 feet of clear oak until the crown. Likely more. Big enough, certainly, to hew the great spanning beams we had seen recently in The Tower of London–the longest such spans of a single oak in England:
But this oak is spared the feller’s axe and the tiller’s saw.
Let it watch our comings and goings for another 400 years at the least.