Ancient Oaks of Blenheim Palace
Get inspired for the Beautiful Blenheim special award
Photography by IGPOTY
Back in September, some of the IGPOTY team visited Blenheim Palace to capture some of their magnificent veteran oaks. Head Forester Nick Baimbridge guided the team through an area in the estate known as High Park. Within, there are are roughly 968 veteran oaks (over 400 years old). The oldest was thought to be the King Oak but is now believed to be the oak featured in this post image, estimated at 1,046 years old.
In the latter part of their life cycle the oak starts a natural process of slowing down crown growth and losing outer branches (retrenchment), making trunk size expand with age. Although the veteran period of the oak life cycle is one of natural decline, this oak is still producing new growth and has a dense canopy with massive, sprawling limbs.
In other veteran oaks, as leaves and branches are shed from the crown, naturally, or by storm damage, the tree can begin to exhibit intricate shapes from the remaining bare larger branches, taking on the appearance of stag horns and creating a palpable sense of age.
The number and age of these oaks make for a landscape unlike any other in its beauty and atmosphere.
As Nick Baimbridge explains:
“The Ancient Oaks are part of a medieval wood Known as Wychwood Forest, the majority of the ancient oaks on Blenheim Estates are located in an area called High Park. Henry I used it for hunting deer and being part of a Royal forest, no one was allowed to harvest wood from the area. That is why it has been naturally preserved for so long – most of the trees are at least four hundred years old, there are even some that are a thousand years old.
Walking amongst the ancient oaks is like walking back in time and you wonder what they have seen in their life time and what stories they could tell. Here at Blenheim we are trying our hardest to preserve the old trees and woodland by cutting back the younger competition and therefore giving them light, and also collecting acorns to grow on for the next generation.
We have recently discovered that it is one of the most important ancient woodlands in Europe, not only for the oaks, but for all of the wildlife that it supports; there are many rare fungi, lichens, wild plants and insects.”
Feeling inspired? Blenheim Palace is home to an extraordinary amount of botanical photographic opportunities and we’re proud to be celebrating this with a new special award, Beautiful Blenheim, which is open now and free to enter.