A shadow hangs over Binsted. But the Oaks have weathered shadows before.
There are six Oaks, among many. Combined, their winters exceed a thousand. Some among them are three centuries old. They will stand – if left to – for three centuries more. Then, their slow decay will seed new life, providing food for a hundred species or more.
This life-giving demise will be a repayment of memory.
Long centuries gone can be read in the Oaks’ gnarled outlines. Medieval farmers, in the bright sun of millennia past, shaped the landscape that is the Oaks’ home. Their roots mingle chalk and flint laid down in ancient seas: prehistory’s deep gloaming, recalled in the Oaks’ bright dawn.
They reach across a shared dominion. Bats hunt beneath their boughs. Badgers dig hidden, root-woven networks. Owl’s swoop to feed oak-nesting young; below, in the hedgerow’s kind darkness, small creatures keep still as night.
Shadow and light. The Oaks are shaped by both. Tall and slender where they grow among others, alone in field or hedgerow their branches stretch broad and wide.
But new shadows gather, which may not be weathered. Ripped up, shredded, the Oaks would know no decay. Seed no new life. They would leave, instead, an absence. A shadow-space in the landscape.
How then, might we pay their long memory forward?
Staker; the Sentinels; Spinningwheel; Broad and Green. Each Oak has its realm in the village. Each its place on the map, its part in the story. Linger, listen, and they will tell you. Of secret gardens, and lovers in the wood. Of ghosts, and Anglo-Saxon meeting places. Of families and farm life. Protest and poetry and war.
This website is a place to record their stories. Choose an Oak from the list above, and let it tell you a tale, one small token of what the Oaks remember.
Photo courtesy of B Pethers