CHIRK, Wales, Feb. 10 (UPI) — A Welsh oak tree, already more than 300 years old when King Henry II spared it in 1165, couldn’t withstand the unusually cold winter of 2010, locals say.
Mark Williams, a historian of the Wrexham area in North Wales, told the BBC he and Deryn Poppit visited the tree Tuesday and found its trunk had been split. He said ice apparently formed around the base of the tree, which had a circumference of 34 feet.
“The tree is on marshy ground in a basin with a stream running down nearby,” he said. “With the stream overflowing because of melting snow, the water must have settled around the trunk and it looks as if this has caused it to split.”
The Great Oak at the Gates of the Dead near Chirk was 1,200 years old, dating from the 9th century. According to legend, in 1165, King Henry II of England, preparing to meet Owain Gwynedd in the Battle of Crogen, commanded his men to clear Ceiriog Woods but ordered the Great Oak to be spared.
“Although some parts of the tree were rotten, some of it was still as strong as an oak,” Williams said.
Mike McKenna, owner of Kronospan, a wood-panel producer in Chirk, has retained a firm of tree surgeons to determine if anything can be done to keep the Great Oak going.