Ancient Trees: Mythical, Magical and Majestic

Trees have a large presence in British folklore, and legends, they carpet the landscape in a way that is often only noticed when they are gone. Ancient trees have the power to link the mythical with the biological to create stories which have inspired generations. These majestic giants are home to small creatures from insects to bats and squirrels, all of whom live within its hollow trunk and rotting base. Trees never want to die. Even when limbs flail and fall to the ground in high winds or due to old age, it is not uncommon for them to take root and shoot new growth.

The oral telling of stories passed between centuries are sometimes “lost in the mists of time”, folklorists would say, however some are more certain than others, the name of the Royal Oak Pub, for example. Stories enshrined with more mystery include that of dancing skeletons around tree roots at midnight, and the biblical thorns of Glastonbury, which reportedly remain to this day.

It appears that trees are cultural and historical icons which represent much of their own surroundings, but should they be protected and supported, or left to rot and wither as nature intended, or should they be showcased as if in a museum? Ancient trees are valued by few, but how will they fare in years to come?

This short documentary uses folklore and stories to illustrate the mighty power that ancient trees have. Experts describe these trees, detailing bulges and cracks, holes and imperfections, but should they be conserved for the future? How do we know about these trees? Does it matter?

Interviews with Dr Jacqueline Simpson (The Folklore Society), Ian Lamb (Brighton gardener), Jill Butler (Woodland Trust) and Andy Jesson (National Trust).

Tree pictured in the car park at Sheffield Park and Garden, East Sussex (National Trust).

This was created as part of my University coursework in 2014.

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