People of England, your tree needs you

This Nottingham press photographer had a challenging assignment last week. I visited the home of the legendary Nottingham outlaw Robin Hood.  Deep in the not so greenwood of a Sherwood Forest winter stands the iconic Major Oak.  My idea was to ‘paint’ the tree with red light to add some drama and promote the ongoing European Tree of the Year campaign.

Robin Hood and Maid Marion at the Major Oak © Robert Rathbone, Nottingham press photographer

The shots were taken at dusk and I used several Nikon speedlights to illuminate the tree and these were controlled by Pocket Wizard radio slaves.  

I do admit photographing an English oak tree at its best in February is not ideal. But a Nottingham press photographer has to adapt to the situation.

I was joined by the famous outlaw Robin Hood (Ade Andrews) and Maid Marion (Sylvia Robson). Our aim was to back England’s campaign to crown the Major Oak as the 2015 European Tree of the Year.  

The competition is a bit like the tree version of football’s champions league.  Major Oak had to win the English tree of the year title last year to qualify.

Robin Hood meets Nottingham press photographer

With an online public vote taking place throughout February, sweethearts Robin and Marian have teamed up with Nottinghamshire County Council and the Woodland Trust to back the Major Oak in the bid for European glory.

Robin Hood appealed for support saying: “It is about the love of the English landscape and this amazing ancient oak. Please get behind this campaign and vote for the Major Oak !”

Councillor John Knight from Nottinghamshire County Council, added: “The Major Oak touches people’s hearts and their imagination. It is one of the most iconic and best known trees in the world. It would be a fitting tribute if it could win this European award.”

The tree weighs an estimated 23 tons. It has a girth of 33 feet (10 metres) and is about 800–1000 years old.  It can be visited in the heart of Sherwood Forest Country Park near Edwinstowe.  The visitor centre is about 20 miles north of Nottingham and the area is part of Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve.

conservation measures

Because of the oak’s national importance, conservation measures have been carried out since 1908.  Initially metal chains were used to support its weighty branches and lead sheet attached to protect the trunk.  These were replaced in the late 1970’s by large wooden struts.  Today, slender steel poles prop the sprawling limbs of this forest giant.  Tree surgeons check the oak periodically and carry out remedial work as required.

According to folklore its hollow trunk was used as a hideout by Robin Hood’s merry men.  But if Robin was active in the 12th or 13th century, as legend suggests, this tree would only have been a sapling.  So it must have been another, much older oak that hid the outlaw.  It a still a great story and why should a few facts spoil things.

I also produced an interactive 360 degree view of the location to let you join us at the site.  To see the 360 degree panorama of this fabulous tree click on the image below then use your mouse to adjust your view.

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