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The Mighty Oak, in literature, poetry, folklore and hard fact

Dr David George talking about The Mighty Oak.
The door behind him, he told us, was not oak.

Educational Consultant Dr David George is well known to most of the 2,300 members of Rotary in eastern central England and many beyond.

For more than a decade he served as the region’s environmental officer and every year would promote a new campaign to improve the environment, including litter-picking, car-sharing, tree-planting and water-saving.

The subject of his talk to Novus Rotary was The Mighty Oak. He gave countless facts and figures about these “amazing trees” in the Somerset burr which he has not lost despite working in education for the RAF and then in the north of England and then in Northampton, where he moved to set up Nene College — and join the city’s 99-year-old Rotary club.

For instance, he told us that there are 12 different tannins in each oak tree and these were important in flavouring wines and beers in oak casks as well as in treating leather for the clothing and shoe trade in David’s current home city.

Oaks were used 5,000 years ago to make the first wheel and in England the oak timbers were used in ships, buildings, and cathedrals. They still are, being as strong as steel, but less flammable. The use was so widespread that it is said that the oak helped England ruled the world. Every fourth pub in England is called The Royal Oak.

Many people are familiar with the annual rings by which oaks can be aged, but many may not know that oaks grow from the outside with a system of three vertical ‘tubes’ in the outer rings. One takes water up to the a stags-head crown of the tree, one stores nutrients and the third takes nutrients down to the network of roots.

David explained that a might oak can have a canopy of 700,000 square feet, enough to cover three tennis courts. Such an oak takes 300 years to grow, 300 years to mature and 300 years to decline.

Not only is oak as strong as steel, it has very ow conductivity of electricity and consequently was used to make the first electric chair in New York.

“Oaks can remember,” said David, arguing that they ‘know’ after periods of dry weather how to protect themselves by reducing water and they protect themselves by ‘sending’ toxins to areas of bark being attacking by deer.

President Sarita Shah thanked David for his talk on this amazing species in which he used literature, poetry, facts and folklore.

Educationalist David was pleased to hear from one member that his school motto had been Robore Validiores (“as strong as the oak”) and the evironmentalist was pleased to hear the Novus members had followed his suggestions by planting hundreds of trees, and leaving square metres of our gardens for wildflowers, and creating ‘bug hotels’ for insects.

Later, members discussed plans to illuminate places of worship in Leicester in purple light to mark World Polio Day on October 24, as they did last year. So far, Leicester Cathedral and the Guru Tegh Bahadur gurdwara in East Park Road have agreed to do so.


Last edited: 18:45 on Friday, 16.10.2020