Country diary: The old oaks won’t believe it’s spring until they see it

·2-min read

There is a moment when the old oaks hold fast to winter. Their centuries taught them about betrayal: sunshine before the lash of hail whips round the hill; sweet birdsong stiff with frost, late snows and other silences. They are reluctant to unclench buds, hesitant to loosen pollen smoke. That day, when the vernal equinox tips into the light, and we wind clocks forwards to return a stolen hour; when timbers shiver with a pulse that opens up the leaves across the land; is that now?

Sycharth is a green ring in the valley a mile, as the crow flies, across the border into Montgomeryshire, Powys. It is a circular earthwork of a motte around the central mound of a bailey under a wooded hillside by the Cynllaith brook. On the ring are oaks and in the oaks are histories, and of those histories, the one about Owain Glyndŵr is the most famous.

In 1404, Harry of Monmouth and his militia came here looking for the rebel leader Glyndŵr; Sycharth was his family homestead. Finding him absent, they set fire to it. Throughout the rebellion, Glyndŵr remained elusive to the English forces; he was never betrayed, and the Welsh hid him. He died in 1415 and was buried, and perhaps reburied, in secret.

The Sycharth oaks are open grown, great boughs outstretched, bounded to the sky, their roots carry the weight of nationhood, struck into the circle. The black lip of an Inonotus fungus sticks out from the decayed core of a trunk. Acorns collected on a wintry morning will float in a puddle of rain at the roots. This means that the seed is unviable. This is a question for rebellion: the slow disintegration of history into a mediated heritage, or the germination of new myths to sustain revolution?

Red kites fly over the green hills, buzzards and ravens dispute boundaries of the long fields of air. For this moment, the Sycharth oaks hold fast to winter, their centuries have taught them about betrayal, and nothing written on the heritage interpretation boards mentions the 600 years of their druidry.

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