In a field in south Lincolnshire stands one of Britain’s greatest trees: the Bowthorpe Oak, an ancient survivor that may well have witnessed more than 1,000 years of English history.
The Bowthorpe Oak stands in a paddock at Bowthorpe Farm near Manthorpe village. The first references to the tree date back to the 1760s and describe the tree’s hollow trunk being smoothed out by the then Squire of Bowthorpe, who created a room inside the oak in which he could entertain as many as 20 guests at a sit-down dinner.
The oak, however, was around long before the gregarious Squire of Bowthorpe decided to use it as a dining room. Experts aren’t entirely sure of the tree’s true age, but the current consensus is that it’s at least 800 years old and perhaps dates back more than a millennium.
The estimated age of possibly 1,000 years or more makes the Bowthorpe Oak likely the oldest oak tree in England and one of the oldest in Europe. Also, as many humans in their later years can attest, with advancing age comes expanding girth. The Bowthorpe Oak has slowly expanded to achieve a most impressive girth of 43.6 feet (13.3 meters), larger than any other pedunculate oak (Quercus robur) in the United Kingdom.
Today, the hollow tree serves a variety of purposes. Livestock sometimes take shelter in its ancient interior, and humans are known to throw the occasional party within the walls of the gnarled old trunk. Of course, nature lovers, tree aficionados, and other dendrophiles also come to Bowthorpe Farm just to visit the oak, to marvel at its mighty girth and imagine all that it has seen.