Friday 19 April 2013

'the hand that plants an acorn...'

Sad news about the ancient Pontfadog oak (pictured here in happier times) - 1,200 years old, and now brought down by Welsh weather at its wildest. The poor old thing is now lying on its side in a most undignified position - and it seems it could have been saved by a few preventive measures costing less than six grand. However, as no 'funding source' could be located, nothing happened. A shame they didn't think to have a whip round - or rather mount an appeal; it wouldn't have taken many tree lovers and/or proud Welsh patriots to save the Pontfadog oak.
Anyway, despite the tone of finality in most of the news reports, it often takes a lot more than just falling over to finish the life of a tree - look at what happened in those southern beechwoods flattened by the great storm of 1987; you'd hardly know anything had happened now. The Pontfadog oak could be given a trim and planted back upright, with whatever stays and props were needed to keep it that way, and the chances are it would surprise us yet. There's much more to a tree than what shows above ground.
It's said that in 1157, when the tree was a mere three and a half centuries old, the Welsh prince Owain Gwynedd rallied his troops under the  Pontfadog oak before the battle of Crogan. Which puts me in mind of these sententious lines of Ella Wheeler Wilcox (which I only know because, in one of his early poems, John Ashbery used them as the basis for a Calypso and Fugue):
'For the pleasures of the many
Can be ofttimes traced to one,
As the hand that plants an acorn
Shelters armies from the sun.'


  1. A tragic loss to be sure, although is it possible they couldn't raise the six grand because too many people with the funding sources thought it was the ugliest tree they had ever seen?

    OT, Nige, is it not possible to provide a comment verification process that doesn't quite challenge one's eyesight so? I'm a little surprised you have any commenters over forty.

  2. Oh dear, I'll see if there's any way of making verification easier - I only put it on because I was getting spam-bombed again...

  3. I enjoy th swirly word, a chance to prove i'm not a robot!

  4. Me too anon, but what if we went blind, or grew confused?

  5. What if we're already half-way there?

  6. Only way to avoid growing blind, confused etc. is to die young...i failed at that...but what's this got to do with nige's tree? he's right, just pop it back in its hole!