Nothing against new style longform journalism, but let's give credit where credit is due to a tradional but awesome story from The Guardian on the greatest tree in Wales, and how it fell (but could possibly have been saved).
No one knew quite how old it was because it had lost its heartwood, but Michael Lear, a tree expert with the National Trust, visited Pontfadog in 1996 and wrote to Josie Williams: "Using Forestry Commission techniques, the youngest it can be is 1,181 years, the oldest 1,628 years. "I cannot find a record of an oak tree of any of the 500 species internationally which has a greater girth anywhere in the world."
Yet, for all its local renown, the Pontfadog oak was barely known outside the small Ceiriog valley and the community of ancient tree experts. It was mentioned by George Borrow on his journey across Wales in 1862 but, like most other ancient trees in Britain, it was never fenced off or protected, and no one was ever asked to pay to see it – although Huw Williams's grandmother used to put out a collection box for the local Cheshire home, sometimes raising £5 a year. "It was just our tree, part of the landscape. We were very proud of it," said one woman from the valley the next day. Last week, some of Britain's specialists on ancient trees gathered at Pontfadog for a post mortem.
"It was the national tree of Wales and one of the oldest oaks in Europe. I'm desperately trying to find people who can help in propagating from the tree by either grafting or micro-propagation in order to maintain its genotype. Kew Gardens have said they are interested," said Simpson.
In fact, the tree could have been saved for many more years. Last year a group from the Ancient Tree Forum visited Pontfadog and, seeing it was vulnerable to a big wind, put together a list of actions costing £5,700 that they thought might have protected it. Despite a petition of 6,000 signatures to the Welsh assembly, no money could be found.
Wonder if tree lovers in this country could call on a group such as the Ancient Tree Forum to save a great old tree, if they feared one was in trouble somewhere in this land.