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The sacred Whiteleaved Oak near Ledbury has been destroyed by fire. Source: Ledbury Fire Station / Hereford Times

Famous Sacred Historic Oak Destroyed by Fire in the UK

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In England a sacred historic oak has been reduced to a burnt stump after it was engulfed by fire. This tree was a local landmark and it was venerated by people from all over the world. This sacred historic oak was also important in the rituals of modern pagans and modern druids .

The 40ft-high (13m) Whiteleaved Oak has stood in South Malverns, Herefordshire, near historic Eastnor Castle, for at least 500 years. It sat at the meeting point the boundaries of the 3 counties of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire and a local village, the hamlet of Whiteleaved Oak, is named after this sacred historic oak tree.

However, last weekend the Hereford and Worcester’s Fire and Rescue Service was called to the tree because it was on fire. A dozen local firefighters, battled through the night, for 12 hours, to quench the blaze. The Daily Mail quotes a spokesperson from the Fire and Rescue Service as stating that ‘The crews ran out hose approximately 120 meters [394 feet] and used an appliance to shuttle water to and from the incident all through the night.’

The Burnt Sacred Historic Oak Used in Solstice Celebrations

A spokesperson from the Fire and Rescue Service in a statement in the Daily Mail said, ‘The tree was well alight when we attended and unfortunately it was not possible to extinguish quickly.’ In the end the tree was reduced to a smoking blackened stump. Dave Throup, Environment Agency manager for Herefordshire and Worcestershire, is quoted by the Daily Mail as stating that the tree was ‘Of considerable historic and cultural importance. Can't be replaced’.

The mysterious fire that consumed England’s world-famous Whiteleaved Oak (Ledbury Fire Station / Hereford Times)

The mysterious fire that consumed England’s world-famous Whiteleaved Oak (Ledbury Fire Station / Hereford Times )

The Whiteleaved Oak was not just a beautiful tree but was also “venerated by spiritual devotees’ for centuries reports The Times . Many people believe that the oak tree had spiritual powers. According to the Daily Mail the tree was unique because it stood ‘on the 52nd latitude, meaning the sun is visible for 16 hours 44 minutes during the summer solstice - the longest day of the year.’ This had led many to believe that the tree was connected with the supernatural. During local summer solstice festivities, the mighty oak was often adorned with trinkets, flags, and bunting.

The Whiteleaved Oak Tree Was Famous Around the World

The Whiteleaved Oak tree of England was so famous that it was featured in a 2014 movie. Moreover, the oak was nominated, by local resident Mr Brian Haynes, as British ‘tree of the year’ in 2014. Haynes did this because ‘The tree has been venerated by spiritual devotees over time from all over the world’ reports the Hereford Times .

What remains of England’s sacred historic oak or the Whiteleaved Oak after the tragic fire.   (Ledbury Fire Station / Hereford Times)

What remains of England’s sacred historic oak or the Whiteleaved Oak after the tragic fire.   (Ledbury Fire Station / Hereford Times )

Mr Haynes has also written a book about the renowned tree. He is quoted in the Hereford Times as saying that ‘Druids and dowsers, Witches, Pagans, Rainbow Warriors , north American Indians , Extra-Terrestrial Ambassadors from London hoping to attract flying saucers and Mayan astrologers ’ have all visited the oak in recent years. In modern times, the tree had great spiritual significance to modern followers of ancient religions, such as the druids, whose beliefs are based on Celtic practices and who see themselves as part of nature.

Another image of the end of the Whiteleaved Oak  (Ledbury Fire Station / Hereford Times)

Another image of the end of the Whiteleaved Oak  (Ledbury Fire Station / Hereford Times )

Sacred Historic Oak Tree Was the King of the Forest

In ancient times, the Whiteleaved Oak was considered to be sacred to the Celtics, and in other religions. It was commonly known as the King of the Forest. Its unique status was possibly a result of the fact that it was prone to be struck by lightning, and yet continued to grow and flourish after these strikes. Chief Druid King Arthur Pendragon, a British eco-campaigner, Neo-Druid leader, media personality, and self-declared reincarnation of King Arthur, told the BBC that ‘To see something like this happen to something that we revere, something that is so close to us spiritually, is very upsetting indeed.’

As of this writing, the cause of the tragic fire that consumed this sacred historic oak tree is not known. One theory is that the cause of the blaze was ‘campers who left a fire unattended’ reports The Times. Another possibility is that someone who sought to visit and to commemorate the oak set a fire that accidently got out of control. Moreover, the possibility that the oak was destroyed by arsonists has not yet been ruled out. It is not known what will happen to the blackened stump of this sadly lost sacred historic oak.

Top image: The sacred Whiteleaved Oak near Ledbury has been destroyed by fire. Source: Ledbury Fire Station / Hereford Times

By Ed Whelan

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