'A Culture is no better than its woods' -The captivating history of England'sancient trees
One of the earliest poems written in English is the Dream of the Rood, conserved in the 10th century Vercelli Book, which tells the origin story of the cross on which Christ was crucified. In part the poem is narrated by the Rood, or 'upright post', which recounts how an enemy entered the forest and felled it, separating it from its companion trees before carrying it away to bear the saviour in his passion. The Rood offers both a justification and a vindication for its felling, which at the time must have seemed a catastrophe. Seven hundred years later Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, wrote A Dialogue between an 'Oake', and a 'Man cutting him downe', in which the oak tree argued the case against its felling most eloquently, as a result of which its life was spared...The latest challenge to our ancient woodland is HS2. In September the 300 year old Hunningham Oak near Leamington was felled as part of the development. At the time of writing, England’s ‘2015 Tree of the Year’, the 250 year old Cubbington Pear, was likewise awaiting the chainsaw.
So what are we to do? "A small grove massacred to the last ash… This great society is going to smash", wrote W.H. Auden, adding: "A culture is no better than its woods’"
The gap between Stonymoor Wood and Red Lane Wood is marked on the 1831 map as Long Meadow. The gap between the woods is also called Long Meadow in 1581.