Ancient Oaks at Lucas Castle

Russ writes:

Yesterday’s task was to recce some trails in the Lucas Castle area, and re-measure a couple of ancient Oaks that were listed in the 1999 survey. This is an attractive area of the New Forest with a nice mix of habitats and some rolling terrain, although somewhat impacted by the incessant drone of traffic from the adjacent A31.


As we moved across an area of open heath, a pair of Buzzards wheeled overhead and a pair of Ravens tumbled over a distant inclosure. Migrant Meadow Pipits and Lesser Black-backed Gulls trickled north, and Stonechat song filled the air.


The first Oak encountered was in a small patch of woodland on the east side of Lucas Castle. Termed the Withybed Oak in 1999 and measured at 5.9m girth in that study, it measured 6.1 m yesterday but was looking a bit old and battered!

A bridge across Highland Water provided a nice backdrop to the second Oak to be measured, which came out at 5.7 m (compared to 5.9 m in the 1999 study). This was an awkward specimen to measure, hence the likely error, but was an impressive tree that appeared to be in good health.

A few big old beeches were also present close to the bridge, but it was this moss-covered and particularly twisted pollard that caught my eye!

Up the hill towards Stonard Wood we found an exposed old Oak that had thrown out a couple of supporting limbs to aid its ageing frame in the teeth of the dominant westerly winds.

And in Stonard Wood itself, we found this Oak of 5.2 m girth that had got its supporting limb lodged between two Holly stems, and was therefore being supported (in part) by its much smaller neighbour!

During the walk we also encountered a couple of Hawfinches and two pairs of Woodlarks, as well as a couple of massive Beech trees. However, I want to return to measure those trees when I have more time due to their complex shapes, and also when the light conditions are better for photography!

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