Holm Oak

This year our beautiful holm oak tree in the middle of the churchyard had to undergo some major surgery. Due to the winter storms one of the branches had been torn off, causing serious damage to the tree and this needed to be dealt with immediately as there was some concern that the tree may have been unstable.

After a long debate with the local tree officer, it was discovered that this tree is approximately 400 years old
and, therefore, the subject of a tree preservation order. Upon consultation with a tree surgeon, the required work was decided upon and carried out in the spring. The tree was made safe by cutting back another limb
higher up and the wound from the torn limb was treated. The debris left by the torn off limb could not be removed at that time because of nesting birds and during the summer some very excited and eager Year 1
pupils from St Edward’s school had a wonderful time dragging it all up to the compost heap and then brandishing brooms to sweep the paths afterwards.

The Quercus ilex, evergreen oak, holm oak or holly oak is native to the Mediterranean region and was
introduced to Britain in the late 1500’s. The first trees to be planted from acorns into England can be
found in Mamhead Park near Dawlish.

Yellow catkins from the holm oak provide a source of pollen for bees and other insects and the best Serrano ham is made from free range pigs fattened on acorns in holm oak groves along the southern border between Spain and Portugal.

It is the National tree of Malta and a small population of these trees, on the northern slopes of a village in Malta called Wardija, are believed to be up to 1,000 years old. The Greeks used the leaves of the holm oak to tell the future and wood from the trees was used by the Romans to make wheels for carts and agricultural tools as it is incredibly hard and strong. Today the wood is sometimes used for firewood as it is slow burning and long-lasting.

According to the tree surgeon, if further work is carried out on the tree in future years then in about eight years’ time this beautiful specimen will be restored to its former glory.

Sue Lake (extract from Nov 14 Eggbuckland Parish Magazine)