Recent visits to Wiltshire enlivened my interest in folklore and paganism. So many enchanting places in the UK, one of which is right on our doorstep in Malvern; the little hamlet of Whiteleaved Oak, and the tree now associated with it's mystery. I'm not really a big believer in the paranormal and sit resolutely on the agnostic fence, however, this doesn't stop my fascination. Here is a winter picture of the White Leaved Oak itself, taken without a filter on a very basic digital camera, around 10 years ago. Those were different times. Before smart phones and editing software, and it was one of the first ever pics I felt pleased with as a standalone image.
A Wikipedia search for the Whiteleaved Oak threw up a Web link to a locally written and produced book about the hamlet and the strange folklore that surrounds it. I could collect the book and combine it with a nice steady ride out that way to meet the author Brian, if he was willing to meet.
Of course he was willing. This frail elderly gent may be past his physical prime, but mentally is still as sharp as a razor, keen to meet new folk and discuss his book and the sidescript of global warming and the state of our fragile planet. Time was lost sat in his dining room over a cup of black coffee and I left with a signed copy of the text and an enthusiasm to see the white leaved oak again.
Immediately time and direction were lost in the Bermuda Triangle effect of Ragged Stone and Chase End. I lived near here for a couple of years and walked and ran these hills many times a week. Yet I still managed to get lost among the bracken and was most surprised to find myself on the top of Chase End with the bike. I genuinely had no idea how I had ended up there, I was aiming for the side of Ragged Stone!
With some skill, no tyre grip and a lot of luck, I slide my way back off the steep side and finally found my way through Ragged Stone to the fields below.
It had been a few years since my last visit to this supposedly mystical tree, and what a sad state it was in. All the presents, gems and guitar playing teenagers in the world won't save it now, with one loan living, but diseased, branch left to sustain the giant trunk.
I left the guitar playing teenagers to get lost in their idealistic chilling, and headed off home via the heights of the Malvern Ridge.
Luckily the folklore and strangeness of the Whiteleaved Oak hamlet permeates much deeper than finite vegetation, leaving even an agnostic notably pondering the underlying feeling that swirls around this area.