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The Oak Papers
The Honeywood Oak is a splendid mature tree in the grounds of Marks Hall estate outside Coggeshall, just a few miles away from Colchester.
For centuries it was part of a woodland of many hundred ancient oaks – until the 1950’s when the woodland was felled. Somehow, this one tree escaped the chain saws and now it stands alone on the same patch of ground where it has stood for over 8oo years.
For years James Canton regularly found time to escape the pressures of work and the stresses of the 21st century to spend time with that Oak tree. He embarked upon a project to explore its nature and connections to the natural world surrounding it.
Diary entries describe the birds, the animals and the insects that live in and around this tree following their activity through the ever-turning cycle of seasons.
Interleaved with these beautifully written observations of nature Canton also explores the place of the oak tree in the trace of human history. Its use as firewood and timber for building and for boats; the food the acorns provided when times were hard. And its veneration as sacred which stretches back through the ages to the dawn of civilisation
It is packed with insights into the Oak’s unique presence in religion, folk lore and literature.
He also meets other people who have in differing ways come to know the Oak – the woodsman, craftspeople, a furniture maker and an artist, each adding a different perspective on this most powerful and enduring tree.
This is a gentle and richly layered book that describes James Canton’s journey to understand the true nature of the Oak.
Canongate hardback £16.99.