For my first blog where better to start than with the ‘common Oak’, Quercus robur and Quercus petraea, also known as ‘English Oak’ or ‘European Oak’ which we use to make our furniture.
In future blogs I will keep coming back to this theme, sharing my thoughts and also a wider knowledge not only about the fantastic properties of this wonderful material but also the magnificent trees from which this wood comes, where they are grown and how they are looked after.. So if this is your interest (rather than design and furniture which are other passions of mine) just scan my blogs for ‘A Celebration of Oak’.. for others in the series.
What is it about an oak tree that makes it so important, that touches the ‘heart of an Englishmen’ and has made it a national icon?.. Is it it’s strength, it’s durability, it’s rugged beauty and age (oak trees can live to be over 1,000 years) or is it because they are common, oak is our most prevalent forested hardwood (over 20% of all broadleaved woods in Great Britain are oak*), and such a great resource and provider (oak forests are among the most biologically diverse habitats in our countryside and historically when felled every bit of the tree had a use from it’s bark to it’s prized timber more on that in future blogs). I like to think that it is a combination of all of these and much more, however I find myself applying words to Oak that are not normally associated with a wood or tree.. I believe a significant reason for its iconic status is that as well as all of the above, it’s Honest and Authentic.
Oak is revered not only throughout our island nation but right across Europe. In France where most of the Oak (Chêne) we use comes from, it makes up over a quarter of the nation’s woodlands or in other words oak forests cover an area almost twice the size of all the woods in Great Britain**. In all probability ‘they have more oak trees than we have trees’, nobody has counted them so this is a guess, and they manage them extremely well, often following rules laid by Napoleon. We also source some of our oak from certified forests in Germany where once again Oak (Eiche) is seen as an iconic national tree and one that touches different people in its own unique way.
To finish on a subject about which I am passionate about, like these trees, the French have a lovely expression, often ascribed to oak, ‘C’est Noble’ (pronounced ‘Nerbbla’)...It’s noble and for me that sums it up!
Next Time: Did you know that oak when grown fast is heavier and stronger than when it is grown slowly? I will explain why… Watch this space.
* Source: National Inventory of Woodland and Trees - FC 2003
** Source: L’ONF ‘Bilan Patrimonial 2011 des forêts domaniales