Foxgloves like their toes in slightly acidic soil especially if the soil has been disturbed as in this clear felling of the forestry plantation along Greenhow Bank. The latin name, Digitalis purpurea, gives a clue to the main usage of this plant, as a source for the drug digitalin, used to treat heart complaints. Across the flat valley of Greenhow Botton are Carr Ridge and White Hill with Clay Bank in between.
Seemingly three wizened and gnarled old oak trees growing close together. Actually these are the same tree, the trunk of which has hollowed and rotted away. This makes the girth of the trunk almost 11m indicating a very old tree, well over 600 years.
The British have a special fondness for the oak. The pedunculate variety is the national tree of the United Kingdom. It is generally thought that the oak was the dominant tree of the wildwood which covered the whole of lowland Britain before Neolithic man began the process of clearances. But nobody really knows, as there are no surviving examples of that original wildwood. However modern pollen analyses have shown that the dominant tree was the lime. Oak was present of course along with hazel and elm.
Oak has been known as the crooked wood or compass timber because it naturally formed the best shapes for the cruck framework of ships and buildings. An Elizabethan ship would require 2,000 oak trees, felled from a wood covering 50 acres and only maturing after 50 years. Oak was also coppiced with the poles being used for charcoal, pit props or the extraction of tannin from the bark.
But this tree has somehow managed to avoid being felled and The Woodland Trust say it is a “maiden” tree and so has not been coppiced. 600 years on it is still going strong. Regular readers will recognise that it has been featured in this blog before, two years ago.
Most of the steep banks guarding the western edge of the North York Moors take their name from the community or parish at their foot so we have Ingleby Bank and Greenhow Bank. Jackson’s Bank, overlooking the flat valley of Greenhow Botton is an exception although I’ve no idea who Jackson was. Botton is old Scandanavian word for a flat bottomed valley.
Known locally as Midnight Corner supposedly because in winter the sun doesn’t reach the north facing valley. But this observation must have been around for sometime, a Midnight House is shown on the 1857 Ordnance Survey map below a Midnight Wood.
Across the valley the Ingleby Incline can be seen diagonally climbing Greenhow Bank, opened in 1861 to carry ironstone from Rosedale to the furnaces at Ferryhill. Below the incline, in the centre of the photo is Old Sheepfold Farm, to give it its modern name, and to its right the buildings of an outdoor centre can just be made out. This was built on the site of another farm called Siberia, at the foot of an earlier incline climbing up to the Ingleby Ironstone Mine, a short lived venture lasting just four years from 1856 to 1860. The navvies who built the original branch railway and incline lived in a temporary camp in the fields around the centre. This scheme must have been only just complete before the navvies went on to upgrade the railway and build the new incline to Rosedale.
On the steep slopes much of the forestry, planted after World War I to provide a strategic timber resource for the country, is being felled. Hopefully native trees, alder, rowan, willow, oak and birch, will be planted in their place creating varying habitats for wildlife and plants.
A sultry evening view towards Botton Head where the forestry plantations are systematically being clear felled. The Ingleby Incline, a former railway incline, can be seen ascending the bank right to left. Greenhow Bank is capped by a series of crags and rock outcrops over a distance of a hundred metres or so. This crag, with its two prominent cracks, has been named as Political Buttress by the rock climbing fraternity.
Thought I would pop along and see how this old oak tree is doing. Its been designated an “Ancient Tree” by The Woodland Trust, see Link. The gnarled trunk has hollowed and split into three but this is quite normal for a tree of this age. It appears to be well as there’s plenty of new leaves and is classed as a “maiden” tree. This means it hasn’t been pollarded or coppiced. The oak has a girth of well over 10m which means it could well be over 600 years old, making it a young sapling in the time of Elizabeth I.