You can guage the age of an oak tree, by measuring its girth. The Woodland Trust has a handy table on its website. That’s how I know that the big oak tree at home was probably planted in about 1700, a generation after the house was built.
But here is a truly great specimen, just a few miles from setting off. I’ve nothing to measure it with, but I’m guessing it’s at least 500 years old.
There were lots of beautiful and wonderful trees today, though they did make for a dark ride. Mile after mile of green tunnel, where the trees on either side met in the middle. Magical, but not a good time for the rear red light to point out that it needs charging occasionally.
It rained a good deal, and when it wasn’t raining it was always threatening to. Though I had a surprisingly dry lunch. I sat on a bench, beside a historically important Spring, that had apparently cured the plague, and been more recently revived, under such a splendid oak tree that it kept a very sharp shower off me.
I haven’t mastered the art of keeping warm, however, when I stop cycling, so a lunch break has to be very swift.
Ashdown Forest, across the top of the High Weald, has uninterrupted views without any sign of human habitation. It’s a sandy heath, with a few trees, the kind of place you’d expect to see kings hunting their deer. I saw a few deer – though they looked more cultivated than wild – but no kings that I recognised.
These hills are surprisingly steep, so I’m quite tired when I get to Melford House and Gallery, just outside Mayfield. It’s a beautiful and quirky arts centre, with a sculpture garden, marquees, and a performance space filled with ancient and plush red theatre seats.
It’s sold out for tonight, which is very gratifying, and Richard is wondering about a rearrangement, in case more people come.
It’s nice to play to a full house, where the front row is within touching distance. We had two intervals, for the charging of glasses, and in the second I learnt that one elderly lady in the audience had in her youth been to a performance by the greatest cellist ever, Mr. Pablo Casals.
So I played Casals’ famous piece, the Song of the Birds, which he adapted from a Catalan folk song, and played at every single concert when he was in exile from General Franco. Art as protest.