I have written
in these columns of the great oaks of Monmouthshire. Records exist of
the Golynos giant, nine feet in diameter, yielding 2,426 cubic feet,
which was felled in 1810; within memory a "Foresters' oak"
in Went-wood burned for a week before it was finally consumed.
The noble oak at Llanfair Grange, Colonel Harry Llewellyn's home, is
still hale and heart-sound. To these I add with delight the magnificent
old veteran of Llanhennock - the Caeryder oak - once the greatest in
In 1876 the spread of its branches was 126 feet, its height was seventy
feet and the circumference of its trunk one foot from the ground was
Between the storms I went up to Llanhennock to take the present measurements
of the Caeryder oak.
Near Pencrug I met the lady of Wood-bank, who insisted on taking a hand
in the survey, and who was not perturbed when we found that between
the stile and the oak was a "bogulated quagmire" holding scores
of little pools made by the hoofs of a dozen Guernsey cows who had sought
the company of the oak. My companion tripped lightly over the slough;
I wallowed in her wake.
Holding the twelve-yard tape a foot above the ground, we found, after
a double check, that the distance around the "knees" of the
oak is now 48 ft. I find such growth amazing.
Back on the road we watched while the low afternoon sun floodlit the
ancient tree against the indigo of the clouds. Every crevice, every
crack in the mighty structure was lined with moss which clothed trunk
and branches in a brilliant acid green while the shadows held purple
One enormous scar marked the breaking away, two years ago, of one of
the biggest branches.
While the oak is known generally as the Caeryder oak, I had heard it
named also the "Coronation" oak. This was explained when Colonel
Dean showed me at Glanusk a coloured print showing the celebrations
held under the oak in 1837, when Victoria ascended the throne. Following
a clue, I called at Lynton Cottage above Llanhennock where Mrs. Edris
Davies showed me the original drawing, obviously the work of a master.
On a chair near the trunk sits a harpist, in bardic robes, who may have
come from Llanover. The men, several of them waving their hats, are
dressed in tight frocked "two-button" coats, but they are
merely a foil to the graceful women, each wearing a "Dolly Vardon"
hat, shawl, bodice and long skirt.
At the left is a shelter decorated with ferns and surmounted by two
poles bearing garlands and flags; the table within suggests that this
may have been the "bar."
I have sketched a few of the figures, but my drawing gives only a slight
idea of the original, with its canopy of foliage, its air of restrained
gaiety, and the beauty of the surroundings, Penycaemawr rising in hazy
The countryfolk tell me that their tree is giving them cause for anxiety,
that it is becoming "shaky at the knees." Those knees appeared
stalwart enough when we measured them, and I fancy that the Caeryder
oak which was probably a stout sapling when the first Elizabeth came
to the throne will last for many years of the present reign.
From the great oak I crossed the road to Pencrug - once the imposing
home of an important family, but now robbed of its character - and to
Little Pencrug, perched at the top of the green crag, with thrilling
views up and down the Usk valley.
How Arthur Machen would have thrilled to that view, for on that afternoon
Usk brimmed with flood-water, and was indeed, in his words "tawny
as the Tiber."
It was here also that I was shown a little walled garden white with
hundreds of snowdrops ; I place them with the Beechwood crocuses among
the fairest February sights in Gwent.