Ancient Trees – Writing prompts and Resources

In ancient trees, Folklore, Oak Apple Day, Owain Glyndwr, Pitchford Hall, Uncategorised by Kateinnes_123.@hW

Ancient Trees Resource Pack: to be used in conjunction with the video on the Facebook Folk Community Group site

Description: Macintosh HD:Users:mkinnes:Desktop:Shelton_oak by david parkes early19th cent.jpg

The Shelton Oak by David Parkes – 19th century

Fairy Folk by an old gnarled tree – by Arthur Rackham

Arthur Rackham, illustrator, paid very close attention to trees in his work, glorying in their detail and character. 

Examples of writing about ancient oaks, other trees, and living and seeking shelter in them:

My Side of the Mountain – by Jean Craighead George

“I am on my mountain in a tree home that people have passed without ever knowing that I am here. The house is a hemlock tree six feet in diameter, and must be as old as the mountain itself. I cam upon it last summer and dug and burned it out until I made a snug cave in the tree that I now call home.

         My bed is on the right as you enter, and is made of ash slats and covered with deerskin. On the left is a small fireplace about knee high. It is of clay and stones. It has a chimney that leads the smoke out through a knothole. I chipped out three other knotholes to let fresh air in. The air coming in is bitter cold. It must be zero outside, and yet I can sit here inside my tree and write with bare hands. The fire is small, too. It doesn’t take much fire to warm this tree room.”

An extract from In the Tree House at Night – by James L Dickey

a beautiful, eerie poem in which the tree becomes a link between earthly life and the life beyond.

For complete poem:

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Live thy Life,
Young and old,
Like yon oak,
Bright in spring,
Living gold;

Then; and then
Gold again.

All his leaves
Fall’n at length,
Look, he stands,
Trunk and bough
Naked strength. 

Dendrochronology (written about the Acton Round Oak)

by Kate Innes

Mary Webb –  a Shropshire writer and folklorist – 

From a description of  Hazel Woodus in Gone to Earth

“Her passion, no less intense, was for freedom, for the wood-track, for green places where soft feet scudded and eager eyes peered out and adventurous lives were lived up in the tree-tops, down in the moss.”

From ‘The Joy of Fragrance’ in The Spring of Joy by Mary Webb 1917

‘A little wood I know has in May among its oaks and beeches many white pillars of gean trees, each with its own air round it. At long intervals a large, soft flower wanders down, vaguely honeyed, mixing its breath with the savour of sphagnum moss, and resting among the wood-sorrel. The wood-pigeons speak of love together in their deep voices, unashamed, too sensuous to be anything but pure. Among the enchanted pillars, on the carpet of pale sorrel, with a single flower cool in the hand, one is in the very throne-room of white light. A little farther on the air is musky from the crowded minarets of the horse chestnut – white marble splashed with rose – where the bumble bee drones.’

The Mary Webb Society notes that: 

“Mary Webb’s love and intimate knowledge of the county permeates all her work. She had an extraordinary perception of the minutiae of nature, and it is this keen observation that gives her prose its unique quality. In her introduction to Precious Bane she writes’ Shropshire is a county where the dignity of ancient things lingers long, and I have been fortunate not only in being born and brought up in its magical atmosphere, and in having many friends in farm and cottage who, by pleasant talk and reminiscence have fired the imagination, but also in having the companionship of such a mind as was my father’s- a mind stored with old tales and legends that did not come from books, and rich with an abiding love for the beauty of forest and harvest field…’ “

More information about ancient trees and tree houses:

More information about the Shelton Oak, including photographs:

The Ancient Tree Forum finds the Bull Oak – a boundary tree and a shelter for a bull for years

Clip from BBC programme about the eccentric occupant of the Pitchford treehouse in the 1940’s:

Off topic but fascinating – Pitchford Ghosts by Caroline Colthurst:

Ancient Tree Folklore Writing Prompts:

Choose any or all of these ideas to start writing about the tree as a location or as a character or its importance to you.

1. You are climbing a tree – where are you? What does it feel like? What sounds do you hear? How does it feel as you make your way up? 

2. You are living in a tree house – describe that – how is it constructed and who is welcome to visit you?

3. You are living inside a hollow tree – describe your living quarters, describe how it sounds and what it feels like to live there 

4. You meet the spirit of the tree – describe the spirit – how do he/she feel about your incursion into its domain? Do you have a conversation? 

5. Write a fairy tale about someone who climbs a tree to escape from danger, and finds more than they expected!

6. Write a story told with the voice of the tree – perhaps the Royal Oak – or another tree that has seen incredible adventures of mice and men. Or write a story about a creatures living ‘adventurous lives’ in the treetops.

Prepared by Kate Innes – Author of ‘The Errant Hours’ and other adventures

@KateInnes2  @kateinneswriter

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