13.4 metre 5,000 year old oak excavated and sawmilled on site in Norfolk fens
One of the largest and most beautifully preserved 5,000 year old sub-fossilised bog oak trees (Fenland Black Oak) was this week excavated and saw milled into 44ft / 13.4m long planks at the site of its discovery in the fens near Southery on the Norfolk/Cambridge border.
In order to preserve and utilise this ancient trunk, the planks will be specialist kiln-dried and, with the help of the fine woodworking students of the Building Crafts College in East London, a unique 44ft long table will be created as a gift to the nation to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and form part of our national heritage.
Nearly 40 people were at the day-long event which posed the first of many practical and logistical challenges for the project. Fenland Black Oak specialist and project director Hamish Low of Adamson and Low said,
“The saw milling event was very successful because of the astonishing level of specialist expertise available to the project. There really were unprecedented challenges to be overcome and everybody had to think on their feet and work together so all the logistical difficulties could be overcome.
The project is particularly indebted to the skill of the operators of ACF Telehandlers and also Ray Taylor the excavator operator. I must also thank John Goddard, Steve Cook and Paul Cresswell for their skill and perseverance in the horizontal rain assembling the sawmill and over coming all the challenges that represented.
The saw milling team would also like to thank all the people at G’s Shropshire & Sons for their constant help and support at a time when the farm was particularly busy.
Last but by no means least, very many thanks to Malco Freight for their very prompt professional help and for generously staying longer than scheduled to load the planks. I would like to thank the driver for his enthusiasm for the project and for all his help loading the lorry with the Building Crafts College students.
I thought this tree had a lot of potential to produce some good planks but I was unprepared for the quality of the ten full length planks, intact, I couldn’t believe what I was looking at.”
So far support has come from landowners G’s Shropshire & Sons, Burwell-based ACF Telehandlers, Ely-based Malco Freight, Swedish company Logosol UK (Berwickshire office) and Insitu Designs – Sawmills & Oakwrights from Goudhurst in Kent.
The 10 freshly sawmilled planks have been delivered to the Building Crafts College in Stratford, East London where a 15 metre bespoke specialist kiln funded by Coillte Panel Products (SmartPly OSB) is being constructed by students. The kiln will house the planks for 6 months until they are ready to be worked.
Instigated by Fenland Black Oak specialists and cabinet makers Adamson and Low, and with further support from the Building Crafts College in Stratford and the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST), the Diamond Jubilee Fenland Black Oak Project was set up by the Worshipful Company of Carpenters to preserve this rare example for future generations.
“This tree is a very rare example and gives us an unprecedented opportunity to make breathtaking table for public display and give an insight into the sheer grandeur of the ancient and giant forests which once dominated the land,” said Mr Low. “I’ve worked with Fenland Black Oak for over 20 years and this is not only the biggest piece I have ever seen, but the quality of the sawn planks is incredible. The tree has truly excelled herself.”
More support is needed to complete the project. Follow the project on Twitter @FenlandBlackOak to watch the progress of the project and find out how you can help.