Updated 9 Jul 2004

Planting a new oakwood in Dorset

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A New Sherwood

Hello, my name is John Palmer and I live in Dorset, England. When I was a boy I was taken to see the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest and have loved the great tree ever since. In October 2000 I collected 500 acorns from the Major Oak and planted them in 3 inch pots at home. Here they got "tender-loving-care" and the surviving 300 were potted up next May into 5 inch pots. When they were a year old, they were, sturdy and many over a foot high. The best saplings were potted up into 10 litre pots in the second year. My back garden was rather full of pots, as you can imagine!

At first my intention was to give these "mini-Major Oak" saplings away free to organisations and other enthusiasts who could collect the trees themselves. This will still be done in special cases where sufficient need can be established.

But problems loomed, many people from abroad wrote to me asking for saplings or acorns, and I soon discovered this was not permitted by Customs without raising a Phytosanitary Certificate at considerable expense and effort.

Recently I have been fortunate enough to purchase a 7 acre pasture field in Dorset, surrounded by mature hedges and trees, and well away from the "madding crowd". Researching old Tithe Maps at the Dorset Record Office revealed that this field was involved in the Inclosures Act and in 1813 nearby fields were called "Great Wood" and "Little Wood". The field itself was called "Bear Mead", and Bear was the old Saxon name for Wood! Today the trees have vanished, but an idea was planted in my head.

My plans now are to plant my 300 "mini Major Oaks" in the 7 acre field, where I hope they will be able to grow into a miniature Sherwood Forest. This is a long-term project, and I will never live to see the trees in all their mature glory, but at least I can start them on their way with love and respect and help them grow in age and stature as did their famous parent.

Preparing the field has been a big project - hedging, burning hedge offcuts, ditching, reseeding ditch spoil lines, grass cutting, bailing, bagging and removing, digging a well, tree surgery on several big ash in the hedges, building a deer-proof enclosure, building a perimeter deer-fence, improving the track for equipment access, purchase of a 4x4, bringing the oaks in containers to the enclosure, building a rope and pulley system to get water out of the well, using an old bath to store the water and watering the saplings every other day in the summer! But working in the field has been idyllic, surrounded by wildlife and no other humans. Read a Newspaper report and a BBC Feature about all this.

I hope that those who have e-mailed me, asking for acorns or even saplings to be posted, will realise that this is not legal or practical. I do regret raising their hopes, but feel that my "New Sherwood" project is the best way of ensuring these oaks grow into a size that will give pleasure to future generations.

Compiled, formatted, hyperlinked, encoded, and copyright © 2004, John Palmer, All Rights Reserved.