Pontfadog oakThe Czech Republic has a wonderful tradition, dating from the nineteenth century, of taking its old trees very seriously (see this link, for example). There is a national list and the bigger and older trees are venerated. Things are done differently elsewhere. I was saddened to read in my Sunday newspaper that the Pontfadog oak – having been at least 1,200 years old and therefore the oldest tree in Wales, the third largest in Britain and one of the oldest in Europe – blew over last weekend in a gale. Since the oak had lost its heartwood it was impossible to tell exactly how old the tree was. But the youngest it could have been was 1,181 years, and the oldest was a staggering 1,628 years. In other words, the oak was seeded some time between AD 367 and AD 814, long before most English cathedrals were built. For a large part of its life the oak was a working tree, pollarded to produce building- and firewood. It put on six inches of growth just last year but once it had fallen the locals realised it had lost all of its main roots and was probably only still standing because of its sheer weight (in 1880 six men sat around a table inside it!). Beyond sadness at its demise I suppose my point is that it could (should?) have been better protected. A plan was drawn up by the Ancient Tree Forum. A six thousand signature-strong petition was addressed to the Welsh Assembly. But the money couldn’t be found. To the end, it was never fenced off or protected. And now it is no more.