'The oak is the wooden tie between heaven and earth. It is the lynch pin of the British landscape.'
The oak is our most beloved and most common tree. It has roots that stretch back to all the old European cultures but Britain has more ancient oaks than all the other European countries put together. More than half the ancient oaks in the world are in Britain.
Many of our ancestors – the Angles, the Saxons, the Norse – came to the British Isles in longships made of oak. For centuries the oak touched every part of a Briton's life – from cradle to coffin It was oak that made the 'wooden walls' of Nelson's navy, and the navy that allowed Britain to rule the world. Even in the digital Apple age, the real oak has resonance – the word speaks of fortitude, antiquity, pastoralism.
The Glorious Life of the Oak explores our long relationship with this iconic tree; it considers the life-cycle of the oak, the flora and fauna that depend on the oak, the oak as medicine, food and drink, where Britain's mightiest oaks can be found, and it tells of oak stories from folklore, myth and legend.
John Lewis-Stempel is the author of The Wild Life, Meadowland, Where Poppies Blow, The Running Hare, The Secret Life of the Owl and most recently, The Wood: The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood. He has twice won the Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing, for Meadowland and Where Poppies Blow, and was shortlisted for The Running Hare, which was also shortlisted for the Independent Bookshop Week Book Award and the Richard Jefferies Society Award. He writes a column on nature and farming for Country Life and was the 2016 BSME Magazine Columnist of the Year. He lives on the borders of England and Wales with his wife and two children.