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The Meavy Oak

A landmark tree where visitors must surely be obliged to eat, drink and be merry!

1 March 2010

On the edge of Dartmoor, not far from a mansion once occupied by Sir Francis Drake, can be found quite the most remarkable of Ancient Oaks. We say it often but, if trees could speak, what tales would they tell? None more than this one, I am sure!

Up to and including the 18th Century, as part of the village festival, the top of the Meavy Oak would have been clipped to make it flat and a platform erected upon it so that tables and chairs could be assembled for some alfresco celebrations – a feast and possibly even a spot of dancing!

Long before St Peter’s Church was built in the village in 1122, the tree, in pride of place on the village green, was known as a Gospel Oak as it was regularly used for preaching. There is now a stone cross in the shade of the tree which is thought to have been erected in the 15th Century. This breathtaking tree is referred to by local residents as “The Royal Oak” – also the name of the local pub – as it is thought to be one of the many trees in which King Charles may have hidden while being chased by Cromwell’s men in the 16th Century.. Certainly, this is not out of the question and, in 1826, the cavity in the middle was large enough for the landlady of the other Royal Oak to entertain nine guests to a full blown dinner party within it! The hollow has also been used as a peat store and there are modern day stories of folk riding their bicycles through it.

The magnificent Oak has been given a helping hand along the way and has been the subject of some major reduction surgery. Its branches had previously been propped up but by the 1970s the wooden struts had rotted. Local residents saw to it that their tree was saved and steel rods, set in concrete, were then put in place to support it.

There are certainly a good few years left in this old dog but, rather poignantly, on another part of the village green lives an off spring – grown from an acorn of the original Meavy Oak .. so, all being well, life will go on and on and on…

Photo of the Meavy Oak from ATH Record by Roy Dyer