The Staker Oak tells its first story at a glance, its very shape an echo-form of the woodland that may have once surrounded it. Oaks, like many species, grow tall and narrow among other trees. Staker perhaps enjoyed a century in close company, before, in the early 1800s, the Read family of Binsted House cleared the area to make Binsted Park.
The southern corner of the park needed a tree: Staker was the chosen one. Left standing, it could now spread outwards – as trees that grow in open country do – to settle, two hundred years later, on its hybrid, statuesque form.
The Staker Oak’s upright bearing evokes the 19th Century ideals that shaped Binsted Park itself. The Read family appear to have seen themselves as upholders of the values of the day. An 1860s photograph shows them arrayed in stiff, Victorian dress (the unmistakable Staker leans in hopefully from the right of the scene):
Much of the Reads’ 19th Century landscaping is visible today. Their ‘Lovers Walk’ is now part of the footpath that leads across the top of Binsted Park and on into Binsted Woods. Look south and you will see, across a gently curving field fringed by woodland, the proud salutation of the Staker Oak.
Three centuries old, the Oak is living history. It has many stories to tell. Rest a while beneath its boughs, and hear of the haunted Madonna Pond, of hidden boundaries in the woods, of times past – and a future that may never come.
The tree that once cheered 1920s picnickers has had to move with the times. Now, protestors gather beneath the Staker Oak in an effort to halt the road that threatens the tree’s very existence.
So come, make a noise, shout to the boughs. But pause, too, and listen. The Staker has stories to tell.
Oak drawing by Richard Geraint Evans
Photos courtesy of B Pethers
Tales from the realm of the Staker Oak