This oak tree may seem like any other doted around the English countryside, but look closer and you will see it bears a small plaque to the effect that it is a grand-daughter of the Boscabel Oak. If you know your English history, you will realise that the Boscabel Oak was the tree which sheltered Charles II from pursuing Roundheads after his defeat at the battle of Worcester.
This later day grand-daughter of the old patriarch is to be found tucked away in a quiet country graveyard at Netherseal, South Derbyshire. It was planted by the Rev. Nigel Greasley in 1869 and the good rector now rests beneath its all encompassing boughs.
Although oak trees have been known to live for hundreds of years, alas the original royal oak is long gone. Unable to sustain the ravages of greedy souvenir hunters, it died during the eighteenth century. Fortunately, not before passing on the royal linage to a carefully nurtured acorn which is now approaching 300 years old and stands almost in the exact spot occupied by its famous predecessor.
The Neatherseal Oak is said to originate from this tree and is carefully tended by local tree surgeons, Eden Tree Care who keep the tree in prime condition with regular pruning and removal of dead branches.
With the current revival of interest in Oak Apple Day this is just as well as like her many sisters and brothers, the Netherseal Oak may well become a ready source of oak leaves and oak apples for this quintessentially English celebration.
For those who fell asleep during their history lessons, Oak Apple day falls on the 29th May and commemorates the restoration of the English Monarchy in 1660 when Charles II was invited to take back the crown after the sever and austere rule of Oliver Cromwell. For many years it was a major public holiday and a time for feasting, dancing and playing tricks. Everyone was expected to wear an oak sprig showing their support for the monarchy and those that didn’t were whipped with nettles, marginally better than having your head chopped off!
Although abolished as a public holiday in 1859, Oak Apple Day is still celebrated in many parts of the country where it may be called “Pinch-bum Day” as this was another form of punishment for not showing loyalty to the crown!