Hello and welcome to our podcast. Our aim is to tell you a little more about the most famous of all New Forest trees - the Knightwood Oak.
On arrival at Knightwood Oak car park, follow the signs to the tree, which will take you across the road. The gravel path winds past some young memorial oaks – these are, in fact, saplings from the Knightwood Oak itself. The path continues through a beautiful patch of pre inclosure woodland. Although you are standing in Knightwood Inclosure – which is a forestry plantation – this piece of woodland was here before people started to plant the trees.
At the bend in the path have a look to your right – the old oak and beech have fused together. This is known as ‘inosculation’, from the Latin ‘to kiss’, and is a rare natural occurrence in the New Forest.
Continue down the track to the Knightwood Oak itself. A wooden fence now protects its roots from our trampling feet. The information boards explain how this traditional cleft oak fence is made.
This tree is the largest oak in the New Forest, at seven and half metres around. It’s hard to be sure of the age of ancient trees, but we think it’s around 600 years old and it’s still going strong. Like most of the oldest New Forest trees, it’s a pollard. This means that when the tree was young, someone cut off its head. Far from killing the tree, this encouraged new shoots, out of the reach of grazing animals. This was common practice in the past, when local people would come back and cut the new growth for firewood.
Pollarding has given many New Forest trees their distinctive character. We have pollarded some of the very young oaks here, and will be partly pollarding some of the old beech trees in this area, to give them a new lease of life.
Ancient trees like the Knightwood Oak are a living link to our past culture as well as being amazing places for wildlife. In the springtime listen out for the drumming of woodpeckers, which are one of the many birds that often make their home in the tree. In autumn look out for the fungi which pop out of the branches - all part of the natural system here in the woods.
We hope you enjoy your visit to the Knighthood Oak. Please help us look after this area by leaving nothing but footprints and taking nothing but memories.