Luxuriously spreading its crooked limbs out over the small clearing it calls its own, the massive Major Oak of Sherwood Forest has long been a celebrity arbor that was said to have harbored Robin Hood and his gang, and winning the honor of England’s Tree of the Year.
Dating back as far as 1,000 years, the famous tree is not exactly the most picturesque plant, but its sheer size has long captured the imaginations of onlookers. The gnarled trunk of the thing is around 33 feet around, spreading its branches out over an area almost 100 feet across. Due to a fungal infection, the interior of the Major Oak is mainly hollow, which undoubtedly led to the proliferation of the tale that Robin Hood used the tree as a secret base during his adventures.
Unfortunately the reality of the tree is a bit less harrowing. Given the age of the tree, researchers have found that it is unlikely that it would have been big enough to have the hollows that whichever historical rogue inspired Robin Hood would have used. In addition, the efforts to preserve the massive relic have resulted in most of the hollows being inaccessible as they were filled with concrete at some point to provide a bit more structure. Although a number of changes have been made to keep the tree alive, it was still voted England’s Tree of the Year in 2014.
The long, twisted limbs of the slow-growing tree have been supported by wooden stilts since Victorian times, and the Major Oak continues to live and grow. Since the weight of visitors to the site began compacting the soil and threatening the tree, a fence has been erected around it, but once a year during an acorn festival, wannabe rogues can still approach the Major Oak and dream of its potential as a woodland hideout.
Visit England withAtlas Obscura Trips
Folklore and Magic of Southern England
Mythical castles and ancient witchcraft, ecological biomes and fairy-tale forests, sea tractors and flaming tar barrels—all this awaits you on our one-of-a-kind exploration of southern England's historic haunts and eccentric traditions.