The Marton Oak
The small village of Marton was able to boast at one time that it had the largest oak tree in the country growing within its confines, however due to the ravages of time the tree has the appearance of being three seperate trees, this suggestion can be ruled out though because the tree has been found to have just one root system as opposed to three. There are not many living things which live past the age of 1000 years, one such however is the Astbury Yew tree found in nearby Astbury churchyard, however the Marton Oak is said to be 1200 years old so it would have been alive before Astbury church was built and before the Astbury Yew had started growing.
The Marton Oak still grows a crop of acorns to try to perpetuate its species, and people living in the village collect them in the autumn and sell them for ten pence each to raise money for the local parish church which was founded in 1343.
The Marton Oak would at one time have been accessible to the public, however in this day and age it resides in someones garden. Back in the 18th century it would have been a complete tree, this would have been before rotting in the bole or top of the tree had started, which descends gradually and results in the splitting which we can see today. The tree has been measured several times in the last 200 years, the trunk was measured at a massive 58 feet in circumference, and one of its lower branches was measured at 11 ft 6 in also in circumference. The tree has seen many changes in its life time, one such change is the house which has been built nearby and which has resulted in the tree finding itself in someone’s garden, so these days permission is needed from the owner of the house before the tree can be visited.
The Marton Oak comes from a species known as Sessile Oak, these type of oak trees would have been used in the construction of houses, gates and ships to name just a few. It is thought it would have taken 2000 oak trees to make a sailing ship such as H.M.S Victory which fought at the battle of trafalger and is still in existence today over 200 years later, due in part to the incredible strength of the oak wood used in its construction. 2000 oak trees would have covered an area of sixty acres, so it would have taken an entire forest of these trees to build just one ship!
Many hundreds of years ago most of the country would have been covered by forests, and it was mainly due to the many ships that were built in the 17th and 18th centuries which lead to the decline of the English oak trees, nowadays many preservation orders exist on many trees to stop people cutting them down, thus enabling these wonderful trees to be preserved for future generations to come.
There is evidence to suggest that the Marton Oak has been used for healing practices in the past, its bark would have been used for getting rid of warts, rashes and boils by rubbing the affected parts with its bark. It is also thought that pieces of its bark would have been hung in local farms and homes to ward off the “Evil Eye”, this was a folklore term that is thought to have been a curse placed on a person, possession or livestock by a person who was envious of another person’s good fortune. Also if the Marton Oak had been struck by lightning in the past, it would have been sought out and people would have walked for many miles for a piece of its bark, because the bark of a “Lightning Oak” was thought to bring good fortune and to protect against evil.
Yet another use that oak trees were used for was to help fight toothache, it was thought that if a nail was hammered into the trunk of an oak tree it would help relieve the pain that a person felt while suffering toothache. Also it was believed that if you were to carry an acorn from an oak tree at all times it would help slow down the ageing process and help to keep you looking younger for longer!
Many years ago people thought that spirits dwelt in trees, and in some parts of the world that belief is still in existence. In the past to appease the spirit that used to dwell in trees we would chant certain phrases, this is where the term “touch wood or knock on wood” comes from and that is still used by many people today, chanting this is said to invoke good luck from the spirit that is believed to reside in the tree!