Local History, Nature, South Cosford

Elmsett and Aldham Village Hall coffee morning – Gainsborough’s oak pollard

Elmsett church, oak pollard   (c) The Bowes Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

I thought it was about time I visited one of Elmsett and Aldham’s fundraising coffee mornings. I bought myself a “Buckle’s Wood” hessian bag from the people running the community woodland in Elmsett. The village hall has had a refurb with new roof insulation and a gas boiler. The committee tell me they could do with more people getting involved, likewise with the Buckles Wood volunteers and the parish council. The problem seems to be that many people now work far away from the village and by the time they have done the commute they are too tired to go out and socialise. Seems a shame.

Anyway, the point of my two pictures. I try to cycle to all my parish council meetings and the ride to Elmsett is magnificent, particularly coming down Manor Road from Nedging direction, you can see the church tower looming up magisterially on the hill ahead. The last time I went it was dusk and as I reached the valley bottom past the bridge, a huge white barn owl flapped silently out of the bones of a withered dead oak tree in the hedge to the left of me and fluttered across the field to my right. There was something quite imposing about that oak.

Then I hear from my colleague, County Councillor Jenny Antill, who went to the coffee morning a few months back, that Elmsett church was once painted by Gainsborough. In the foreground of his painting is a strangely familiar tree. It looks like an ancient oak pollard, just coming into leaf. Well it may not be the same one, 200 years on and now housing a barn owl. But I’d like to think so. (There’s a young pheasant sitting in it in my photo).

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