- Around and about Bourne, Lincolnshire, England -

The Bowthorpe Oak

Photographed in 1999

A GIANT OAK TREE at Bowthorpe Park Farm, Manthorpe, on the A6121, three miles south west of Bourne, has earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records and in 1998 was the subject of a short film on television about its size and longevity.

The tree stands in a grassy meadow behind the farmhouse and visitors can see it for a small charge that is donated to charity. The legendary Bowthorpe Oak is the largest girthed living British oak and its circumference measures almost forty feet. Apart from its great size, it has a rugged bole, gnarled and crooked branches and a great spread of crown. It is reputed to be well over 1,000 years old and may therefore have been planted during the time of William the Conqueror (1066-1087) but chains now bind it to prevent it from splitting under the weight of its heavy boughs.

There is sufficient space within the hollow trunk to hold a party and one former tenant of the farm had a roof and a door installed and used the recess as an additional room in which 39 people have stood at one time and 13 have sat down comfortably to tea while successive generations of children born and raised on the farm have played in its branches. There are many other tales about the uses to which the tree has been put. One former owner used to feed his small calves inside the trunk while children from the Methodist chapel at nearby Manthorpe held their annual tea and treat there.

Bowthorpe Park Farm enjoys a beautiful setting on the side of a hill with a stone farmhouse that is over 400 years old. The surrounding area was originally Bowthorpe Park, hence the name of the farm, and in 1226, Sempringham Priory acquired the manorial chapel which stood there but it has gone, together with its accompanying manor house. The grass in the parkland that remained was lifted during the Second World War and the land cultivated as part of the drive to produce more food for home consumption. Manthorpe village can be seen a few fields away on the next hill and there is an attractive pond alongside the entrance track to the farm. The family who now run the farm welcome visitors throughout the year to take a look at their activities and their busiest period is during the lambing season in the spring, a favourite time for school parties.

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