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The Wyndham Oak

Witness of two New Millennia.. Now that really is rather impressive..

23 December 2009

For over 100 years the Wyndham Oak, in the village of Silton, just North of Gillingham, Dorset, has been marked on the Ordnance Survey map. It was already famous enough to be the subject of an engraving when George III was on the throne…

The tree is named after Sir Hugh Wyndham, who bought Silton Manor in 1641. In 1654 Sir Hugh became a judge of the “Court of Common Pleas” having been appointed by the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell. He would return, weary from much travelling, and rest under his favourite tree, admiring the view of what was previously the Royal Forest of Gillingham. So well loved was this view that a seat was erected under the tree so that full benefit could be gained – its remains were still visible in the early 19th Century.

It is possible that the tree was used for hangings after the Monmouth rebellion in 1685 but this isn’t certain but nearby village, Stoke Trister is reputed to have been the home of a number of the rebels concerned so it’s definitely not out of the question.

An acorn, taken from Judge Wyndham’s Oak, was planted some 30 years ago by George Harris, the farmer whose family have looked after the old tree for many years. The young tree now flourishes in the same field as its famous parent. We love the thought of this.. an acorn from an ancient..

It is no coincidence that we have chosen this majestic tree to mark the end of 2009 to bring in the New Year.. It happens to be one of our new Project Manager, Edward Parker’s favourite ancient trees and he was there 10 years ago at the dawn of the New Millennium...

“I first made its acquaintance in 1998 when I was directed to it as part of my research when writing and photographing ANCIENT TREES - TREES THAT LIVE FOR A THOUSAND YEARS. At that point it quietly existed minding its own business in a field behind the picturesque church in the village of Silton in North Dorset. However over the next two years its fame grew and its image graced the pages of most of the national newspapers as an example of one of the UK’s most magnificent ancient trees. Wyndham’s Oak was then catapulted to international stardom as I chose it as my subject for the Dawn of the Millennium Project. This involved 70 photographers taking images on a whole variety of subjects around the world as the sun rose for the first time of the 21st Century. There were photographers at Ayer’s Rock, on tropical islands, by the great Pyramids and on the summits of snow-capped peaks. By contrast I was in a damp field in Dorset nursing a magnificent hangover, waiting for the sun to shine weakly through the enveloping mist. However, I cheered by myself with the fact that I was in the company of a tree that had done it all before. It had seen the dawn of the last Millennium, been used as a gallows tree, stood as a boundary marker in a Royal hunting forest, been clambered all over by countless children and even temporarily swallowed a cow in its vast hollow trunk to become one of the grandest trees recorded on the Ancient tree Hunt.”

Silton Oak - At the Dawn of the New Millennium Photo: Edward Parker