Garden Action

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The Major Oak


Major Oak Tree in Sherwood Forest, Nottingham
Major Oak, click to enlarge

Possibly the most famous tree in England, the Major Oak is thought to be between 800 to 1,200 years old. It's also the largest oak tree in the UK.

There are around 500 species of oaks in the world although there are only two native to the UK. These are the Pendunculate or English Oak and the Sessile or Durmast Oak. The Major Oak is of the species Pendunculate Oak (Quercus robur).

The huge girth of the main trunk (10 metres / 33 feet), combined with the shape of the tree is probably caused by two or three oaks growing together as one. The cavity of the oak has several compartments which also lends weight to this theory.

The age of the tree is not known exactly. but it is believed to be at least 800 years old. Because the centre of the tree has been eaten away by bactria and fungi normal dating techniques do not apply. Some people believe the tree is over a thousand years old.

Originally this oak tree was called the Cockpen Tree. The reason for the name is simple. In the middle 1700s cockfighting was at its most popular. The cavity of the tree had already been formed by that time and cock birds were stored inside the tree prior to a cockfight.

This name fell out of favour and the tree became known as the Queen's Oak in the early 1800s. The tree has no know association with any Queen of England.

Finally, in 1790,Major Hayman Rooke wrote and published a book on oak trees in Welbeck Park, Nottinghamshire. Picture 9 in the book clearly shows the Queen's Oak. From then on, this tree was named the Major's Oak (shortened to Major Oak).


The trunk of the Major Oak, click to enlarge picture

The sheer size of the tree is remarkable. It has a height of 19 meters (52 feet), the girth of the main trunk is 10 meters (33 feet) and the spread of the branches and leaves is 28 metres (92 feet).

The number of visitors to the tree each year is currently estimated to be 900,000, one very good reason why it is now fenced off.

The Major Oak still produces good crops of acorns every three or four years. In a good year it will produce over 150,000 acorns!

Many famous people are known to have visited the Major Oak including Jason Connery and Michael Praed both of whom have starred in the role of Robin Hood. Other famous visitors include the botanist David Bellamy, Cilla Black, Bernard Miles, Jack Palance and Maureen Lipman.

The Major Oak is a 15 minute gentle walk from the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre, click here for a map. When you arrive at the visitor centre, simply follow the signs for Major Oak.

Be aware though that parking facilities in the area are totally inadequate on busy days such as Bank Holidays. Visitors to the centre are the main revenue source. It is a sign of appalling short-sightedness on the part of the local councils not to provide adequate parking. If this involves re-siting the visitor centre elsewhere then we are fully in favour of that. This would also reduce damage caused by the existing centre.

The Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre website gives lots of useful information on the Major Oak and Sherwood Forest in general. Click here for their site.