Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Poignant end for the blasted oak of Barn Hill

I came across this rather sad sight on Barn Hill today and a couple stopped to talk about what used to be the 'Hollow Tree' or 'Blasted Oak' well known to locals and walkers.

The oak, hollowed out by a lightning stroke with a sooty interior where children could stand, has been hanging on to life for years, but must have been deemed unsafe. The couple's children had played in and around the tree as had many primary classes I take to the park in my work with Brent School Without Walls. The tree had a fairy story quality that immediately attracted children and stimulated many speculative questions and comments.

The sight of the felled remains of the tree was strangely moving, the end of a venerable oak that had been there for well over 100 years, and a marker of the passage of time and final, inevitable, decay.

Note: The oak was beside the footpath at the Beverly Gardens end of Barn Hill.  There is another on the other side of Fryent Country Park at Beane Hill.


  1. It is sad that it is no more. These are the real life things that bring magic to childhood.

  2. I suppose it is too much to ask if Brent complied with the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Habitats Regulations 2010 by surveying the tree for roosting / hibernating bats before its removal. The owners of mature trees are required to survey trees which contain cracks, crevices and hollows likely to be used by bats and birds before removal and if any evidence of current or past usage is found, obtain an EPS Licence issued by Natural England. Once a licence has been issued the removal would have to be carried out carefully and in a controlled way in case any bats or birds are found to be using the tree. Perhaps a Brent representative will be able to confirm if they have complied with the Regulations and if so provide a reference for any licence issued to them. Don't hold your breath.

    1. I have since been told by a local that she heard it had fallen naturally and presumably then the trunk and branches cut up to clear the path. Perhaps someone will enlighten us after the holiday.

  3. I accidentally deleted, rather than published, a couple of comments on this post. Please resubmit. Apologies. Martin

  4. In the week before Christmas I watched the decimation of the 3 huge trees, numerous shrubs and landscaping outside the former Brent House with great sadness. Witnessed the eviction of Birds and Wildlife in one fail swoop, like much of the population they now find themselves homeless in search of safer, temporary, or a more permanent home probably much further away from the habitat they are used to. What happened to protecting the mature trees with TPO's. So much for improving our air quality and pollution levels on a gridlocked High Road. It is a well known fact that trees suck up Carbon Monoxide, traffic noise, excess water etc and improve our environment, not only are they beautiful to look at but enhance the walking experience. To be replaced with battleship Grey hoardings, and buildings with no architectural merit whatsoever.

  5. Further to my earlier comment. I am particularly concerned at the rate of loss of our mature trees. Trees are being removed on the grounds of health and safety just because they have cracks, splits and areas of decay. This process is all part of a trees life and we need to allow them to continue their natural life cycle to provide conditions for all manner of insect life which requires decaying timber as part of their own life cycle. Birds and bats rely on this other wildlife for food and decaying trees for roosting opportunities. The massive increase in developments within the boroughs of Brent and Harrow is accelerating the loss of these trees. The so called mitigation, is the provision of new saplings. Not much use in the interim 50 or 100 years for our wildlife and air quality whilst they develop, if they get that chance. A high proportion of the replacement trees are not similar species to those removed and a high number don't survive due to vandalism and traffic damage. The policy appears to be; remove the trees without consultation and then it is too late to undo the loss and damage. Barn Hill, Frient Country Park, Northwick Park and Harrow School playing fields, as well as our parkland areas, are all under threat. It has to stop. The big question is how if our "leaders" won't listen to our concerns.

  6. You can discover a bit more about the history of this tree, and of other nearby locations, in a guest blog I wrote, which Martin published on 3 January 2017 at: