The Fall of the Poem Tree - Update
The Poem Tree, a 300 year old beech tree on the top of Castle Hill at the Wittenham Clumps, has toppled.The tree died in the 1990s but has been safely left for visitors and as a habitat for wildlife. Unfortunately the base is now completely rotten and the recent wet weather followed by a hot spell is likely to have proved too much for the ancient trunk. The Poem tree was found leaning precariously onto a nearby hawthorn tree, but had to quickly be winched to the ground in order to keep the area safe for visitors. Sadly, the entire trunk was completely rotten and disintegrated during the winching process.
Local poet Joseph Tubb of Warborough carved a poem in the bark of the beech tree in the years 1844/45. Tubb carved the poem over two weeks in the summer. Taking a ladder and a tent with him he carved from memory, regularly forgetting to take the original copy with him! Today it’s only possible to decipher a handful
of letters but a nearby plaque allows visitors to feel the passion that this
Victorian vandal had for the local landscape and its history.
The famous Poem Tree now lies on the ground in pieces of deadwood as nature intended, and will provide valuable habitat and nutrients to the surrounding area. The Poem Tree will be sorely missed by the Earth Trust team and, we are sure, by all that have visited this magical piece of natural history over the years.
As up the hill with labr'ing steps we tread
Where the twin Clumps their sheltering branches spread
The summit gain'd at ease reclining lay
And all around the wide spread scene survey
Point out each object and instructive tell
The various changes that the land befell
Where the low bank the country wide surrounds
That ancient earthwork form'd old Mercia's bounds
In misty distance see the barrow heave
There lies forgotten lonely Cwichelm's grave.
Around this hill the ruthless Danes intrenched
And these fair plains with gory slaughter drench'd
While at our feet where stands that stately tower
In days gone by up rose the Roman power
And yonder, there where Thames smooth waters glide
In later days appeared monastic pride.
Within that field where lies the grazing herd
Huge walls were found, some coffins disinter'd
Such is the course of time, the wreck which fate
And awful doom award the earthly great.