Best of British: 60 things that make Britain great

Imagine you're cut off in a far-off land. What longings would be uppermost in your mind? Here we celebrate those aspects of life that make our islands distinct and beguiling.

38. English oak


Our legacy of ancient oaks far exceeds that of any other Western European country. Nearly every lowland parish has at least one that’s more than 250 years old, marking a crossroads, commemorating an accession, sheltering a village seat or standing alone in the middle of a field. Oaks can live for more than 500 years and they become distinct characters well before this, such as the Bound Oak in Berkshire, the Milking Oak in Northamptonshire and Warwickshire’s Baginton Oak, which has a pub named after it.

‘Heart of oak are our ships/ Heart of oak are our men’
(David Garrick)

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