Friday, January 13, 2012

Parliament Oak & Pilgrim Oak, Sherwood Forest.

Parliament Oak, an all but forgotten tree at the side of the A6075, in a small lay-by often littered by fast food wrappers and subject to some fly-tipping. And yet this was one of the most important sites in England.

Parliament Oak is thought to be c.1200 years old and hence probably the oldest tree in Sherwood Forest. In its heyday it marked the Hell Dale Gate entrance to the deer park of Clipstone, a much favoured hunting place for Royals from 1180 - 1830. Many large oaks defined the parameters of the park, with a fence running from tree to tree. This park was the sole reserve of Kings, who would stay at nearby King John’s Place (see THIS LINK), and woe betide anyone caught trespassing or poaching therein!

The tree acquired its name from the Parliaments which are said to have been held here. The most infamous of these, resulting in King John hanging several Welsh teenage boys, can be seen on THIS LINK. There is also a report in the "Manor of Warsop Perambulation Document of 1816", that the Ancient Barons met King John here in order to present him with the details of the Magna Carter, later signed at Runnymede. One further royals story linking this oak with Edward I tells of the King calling Parliament to meet here when on his way to Scotland in 1290.

During the English Civil War (1642 -46) many ancient oaks were felled and used for the Royal Navy, but happily this one survived albeit in a neglected state through the subsequent decades. Parliament Oak’s appearance of having two trunks only occurred over the last 300 years, after the centre became hollow, and split into two sections.

Pilgrim Oak stands in front of the gates to Newstead Abbey. This is the spot where pilgrims would stop and gather together to read from the bible before moving on to the Priory itself. On the opposite side of the road is the Hutt, where travellers would gather together in larger numbers before passing through the notorious Thieves Wood on their way to Mansfield and beyond. Beneath the road are still the remains of an underground tunnel linking the Abbey with The Hutt.

For obvious reasons Pilgrim Oak is also sometimes referred to as the Gospel Oak, and it is thought that the site was also the place where people would gather to celebrate various religious festivals during the year. Happily, it remains in a superb, healthy condition to this day.

See also the famous Greendale Oak (THIS LINK), Robin Hood's Tree the Major Oak (THIS LINK), Friar Tuck in Newstead Abbey (THIS LINK) and the nearby Friar Tuck’s Well (THIS LINK), plus the King’s Great Way (THIS LINK).

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