Savernake Forest

Savernake Forest is on the way to a friends house so I pass through often but I hadn't stopped there for years. Even though most of the time it was pouring with rain I stopped for a short walk and to take some photos.

No-one can say how old Savernake Forest is. It cannot be less than 1,000 years old, as it is referred to in a Saxon Charter from King Athelstan in 934AD, being called "Safernoc". It is certainly older than the other great Forest of southern England, which was only planted over a century later by the Normans, and whose name reminds us that it is younger than ancient Savernake - the New Forest. Since it was put into the care of one of the victorious knights who fought at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, Savernake Forest has passed down from father to son (or daughter, on 4 occasions) in an unbroken line for 31 generations, never once being bought or sold in a thousand years, and today it is the only Forest in Britain still in private hands.

As well as being in a designated 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty', most of Savernake Forest is a registered SSSI - a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Though Savernake's high scientific status is primarily related to its rare lichens and fungi, visitors may encounter a wide variety of other rare wildlife. Bird residents of the Forest include Hawfinchs, Redstarts, Nightjars, Woodpeckers, Crossbills, and Nightingales. As well as very numerous Owls, all the main British birds of prey are present, especially Sparrowhawks, Buzzards and Kestrels. Recently a pair of rare Red-tail Kites have been seen. All main Deer species are present in Savernake Forest, including Red, Roe, and ever-increasing numbers of Muntjac, though the biggest numbers are made up by the most native of all British Deer - the Fallow. Badgers & Foxes are very numerous.

Savernake Forest is rightly famous for its splendid avenues of tall 200 year old beech trees, and these are seen to their best in October when the green leaves turn to glorious shades of gold, copper, and brown. Parts of the floor of the Forest are thickly carpeted in early May with thousands of bluebells. Everyone who drives through Savernake Forest on the Marlborough to Salisbury road knows about the Big Belly Oak, even if they do not realise that it is more than 1,000 years old. However, few people, apart from those who spend time foraging deep in the forest, know that Savernake is home to a collection of some of the oldest trees in Europe. The trees often have names given them over time by local people and foresters, for example the Duke's Vaunt, the Amity Oak, Braydon Oak, the Spiral Oak, the Cathedral Oak, the Kings Oak and Queens Oak and the imaginatively named King of Limbs. The Big Belly oak is the great grandfather of them all at about 1,100 years old, taking root at a time when William the Conqueror defeated King Harold in 1066.

Many of the trees are steeped in local folklore and it is said that if anyone dances naked round the Big Belly Oak, also referred to as the decanter oak because of its bulbous shape, 12 times anti-clockwise at midnight, the devil will appear.

Below are a selection of photographs from my visit there.