Caerleon on the slopes below the Llanhennock ridge stands the
Caeryder Oak - once one of the greatest oaks in the county of Monmouthshire.
Hundreds of years old, it's watched the River Usk rise and fall
daily with the tide; it's seen the Usk Valley come to life bursting
into green only to mellow to Autumn brown each passing year. Though
it will never itself again participate in this seasonal cycle it still
has a part to play in the order of things - in time to return
to the earth that nurtured the tiny acorn it sprang from.
As can be
seen from the old print (top left) it was a huge tree back in
1838 when locals celebrated the Coronation of Queen Victoria under
its spreading branches. And where better to mark an important
moment in time? (See footnote.)
In 1964 when
Fred Hando went up to Llanhennock 'between storms' he found the
girth of the tree to be 48 feet (approx 16m) - some 10 feet (3m)
greater than when measured in 1876. You can read his musing by
following this link.
its dead branches are just a fragment of their former glory but
the twisted trunk is instantly recognisable. And there it stands,
a fabulous sculpture created by nature. It was there when oaks
were being felled to build ships during the reign of the first
Queen Elizabeth - this continuity makes History more real
for us. Its seen changes. Once, a horse and carriage drove Colonel
Sir Digby Mackworth Bart. to and from his home at Glen Usk. Recently
the same route has been followed by rock bands in limos to the
Loco recording studio at Plas Llecha where Oasis recorded their
first number one hit - Some Might Say. The very landscape
has changed in the valley below with the completion of the new Celtic Manor
Resort Golf Course. And here's a great coincidence!
Or maybe it is fate... For the tree is called after the old name
for the field it stands in, Cae Ryder or Ryder field
('cae' is Welsh for field). And this oak looked down on one of the greatest spectacles
ever to have taken place in the valley - the Ryder Cup 2010.