The Majesty Oak
The Majesty Oak, or simply Majesty, also known as the Fredville Oak, is the largest maiden (i.e. non-pollarded) oak in Britain, if not Europe. It is located in Fredville Park, Kent, in Nonington near Snowdown. It is situated on private ground and permission from the owners should be sought before visiting it and many people do visit it. The surrounding park is open to the public on foot (the entrance road is private and for authorised vehicles only) and contains other immense trees, but Majesty is situated near the old house and new residence down a road marked off as private. However, the owners are accustomed to people visiting the tree and are very approachable. The girth (circumference) at a height above the 'elephant feet' buttresses but below the first branches (at a standard height of 1.5 meters) was measured at 12.04 meters (39.5 feet) in 1993. The Bowthorpe Oak in Lincolnshire is a competitor for greatest girth, both trees have girths of about 40 feet, but the Majesty Oak is taller at about 20 meters. This oak is species Quercus robur the European or Pedunculate Oak.
The age of the Majesty Oak is uncertain. Some have suggested it is 500 years old. It is difficult to date by size alone, since it (like certain other trees at Fredville Park) clearly grew in girth unusually fast. By appearance it looks about 500 years of age, but trees growing well will show fewer signs of aging. This is because trees grow by adding a new layer of wood to the outside, beneath the bark, each year and must do so to maintain life. This means that as the tree gets wider it has to synthesise more wood each year or else the new layer gets narrower and narrower until it can no longer encompass the entire girth. When this happens some branches become cut off from the roots and die, giving the tree a 'stag's head' appearance. Damage and drought can also kill branches, of course, and branches may be shed if they are too shaded or otherwise too expensive for the tree to maintain. A drawing of the Majesty Oak made in 1825 show some early signs of branch death, but the tree today maintains a healthy crown. However, a large hole is apparent on the north face and recently a hole has appeared in the south face. This latter hole was not apparent in photographs published in the 1990s. A few branches, including one major bough has been lost since the 90's too, such that the tree currently appears to be entering decline. Much of the centre is visibly hollow, though this is a normal part of the growth in this type of tree beyond a certain age. All these things considered, I estimate its age at about 700 years.
Above: The south face (May 2019). Some smaller branches have been recently lost but the wound on the end of the south-pointing bough has closed over more when compared to photos taken in the 1990's.
Above: The west face (May 2019). An appreciable number of young red-white oak apple galls, of the type caused by the gall wasp Biorhiza pallida were visible in the canopy on this face.
There is one more pleasant surprise to see about the Majesty Oak,
which the owner pointed out to me, but I wont spoil this one: you will
have to go and see the tree for yourself!
See the giant Sweet Chestnut trees at Fredville Park.
Article created: 4 May 2019