A couple of weeks ago now the Wildwood decided to get together for a bit of a social. After much discussion we settled on visiting the village of Marton, which is the home of what is claimed to be the oldest timber framed church still in use in Europe, St James & St Paul’s, and one of the country’s oldest trees, The Marton Oak.
The village also has a pub and a tea room and we started off the afternoon by indulging in coffee and cake. The cafe was surprisingly busy, but we managed to squeeze the eight of us in. Unfortunately the high ceiling meant it was difficult to talk, especially as there were a large group of excited cyclists behind us, it’s hard to get cross with them though, I think cyclists keep a lot of these small places going! After we’d finished up the drinks we walked across to the Church.
The exterior was ‘restored’ in the nineteenth century, but most of the building is still the original timber from the 1340s. I ‘borrowed’ the photo below to show you the interior. It’s a much better shot than I could have achieved!
At the bottom of the bell tower were two effigies of medieval knights. They’re made from the local sandstone and in rather a sad state of repair. I wonder if at one time they were outside, they look a bit worn. They’re resting on the Davenport Coat of Arms so it’s been presumed that they represent Sir John de Davenport and his son Vivian who founded and endowed the church.
The bell tower has a ring of six bells, one of which is dated 1598 and has the inscription ‘God Save the Queen and Realme’ I didn’t go up the ladder to look as it seemed far too rickety!
This is the stained glass in the window above the altar.
‘William looked at the border of the window in front of him. It was a gold Crown of Glory , against a brown field, with cross hatching above and below, and two small roundels of clear glass in the brown.’
‘Cockle-bread and green wood; Man of leaf and golden hood’
‘there ran a wavy line, and in each bend a single dot’
The obligatory graveyard yew, this was a beautiful tree.
After exploring the church we set off to find the Marton Oak, it’s actually in a private garden and you have to ask permission to visit it. Fortunately we were allowed in! The tree is also part of Strandloper.
The oak is estimated to be 1200 years old. It actually looks as if it is three trees but this is because of the way it’s rotted from the inside out, these pieces are all connected at the roots. It is a sessile oak and still produces acorns, it looked pretty healthy considering it’s so venerable. There were signs that some limbs had been removed and one piece was propped up by an old telegraph pole.
Oak trees tend to rot from the inside out.
Inside were a carpet of cyclamens. A rambling rose was being trained over one side and will make a lovely arbour if it establishes. In the past the tree has been used as a chicken coop, a sheep pen and a Wendy House. There was also both holly and ivy growing inside.
The plaque at the bottom of the tree states that in 2002 the Queen designated it ‘One of the Great British Trees in recognition of its place in the national heritage’ Fifty of the UK’s trees were considered worthy of these plaques, which are also inscribed ‘The National Grid’ as they sponsored the whole scheme. I don’t know why they thought sticking a plaque on it would make it any more special. It’s presence alone brings a feeling of wonder and awe. It was a privilege to spend time in it’s company.
Fortunately the weather couldn’t have been better, the first sunshine for weeks and quite mild. We had a lovely stroll around the village, caught a glimpse of early snowdrops, were serenaded by starlings and treated to a flypast by a young buzzard. All in all a wonderful day out and hopefully the first of many for the Wildwood!