In this place there are thousands of ancient oaks. Old and hoary and with trunks that look like agonised faces dissolving in lava. Many are dieing on their feet. They are like Indian elephants – domesticated that is and planted as a deer park 700 years ago by the local monks. Pollarded tops gave them a crazed outcrop of twisted branches. The soil – pure sand – has kept their size in check and stopped them growing to African elephant size.
Staverton Park is private and newly and primly fenced off. You can walk your dogs on the outside edge and breath on the wonder of the hobbledy oaks dancing off into their wood pasture. But the farthest flung section, nearest the road, is called Staverton Thicks. An uncertain footpath traces under the swag of ivies and fallen trees and by the girth of the biggest holly trees in the kingdom. These have planted themselves so close to the oaks that they are hugging them to death, squeezing the life blood of the root juices. A weird and magical forest.