Worcestershire Record No. 16 April 2004 pp. 18-20

Grid Reference SO 7230 7610

Brian M Stephens

For many years the Goodmoor Oak has been a notable tree growing beside a footpath, thirty yards north from the road passing the former Far Forest station. The late Dr. Norman Hickin recorded a description in his book The Natural History of an English Forest (Hutchinson 1971), pages 6-8. That was thirty-five years ago, and now, with the kind permission of the owner, Mr. Stephen Betts, there has been opportunity to report the tree's present condition. This is not an ancient or veteran oak, but it is old, large, healthy and cared for.

The tree grows on more or less level meadow-land, at 92m OD, as an isolated standard, probably a maiden. The surrounding land forms a spur sloping gently NE from 100 m OD, before dropping more steeply to the headwaters of Dowles Brook and to the west, steeply to Lem Brook, flowing north to its confluence with Dowles. The Worcestershire County Boundary follows these streams, so the tree is definitely in Worcestershire, but only by 200-300 yards.

Like the Mawley Oak and others growing on the higher, drier, acid soils of Wyre, the Goodmoor Oak is Quercus petraea. the Sessile or Durmast Oak. Dr. Hickin quotes various measures, but gives no details of methods. He writes of the Goodmoor Oak on page eight;"The girth at six feet was found to be 15ft 6in. This gives a diameter of almost 5ft." (4ft 11in. actually). " Several large burrs occurred at breast height."

The "several burrs" would seem to have developed, They now form a continuous swelling round the south, west and north, giving a girth at 6ft. of 19ft lin,. and spread upwards from 4ft 6in. to 6ft 6in. The conventional "breast-height" for measures of girth is 4ft 6in, usually clear trunk, but here, this height includes the edge of the burr and beginnings of root buttresses. Girth at 4ft 6in. is 18ft 9in. Dividing by Pi (π) gives a diameter of 5ft 11½ in.

One needs to reach to seven feet to measure straight trunk, which now has a girth of 16ft 9in. and a diameter of 5ft 4in. This measure probably most closely corresponds to Dr. Hickin's value for girth of 15ft 6in. So in 35 years the trunk diameter has grown from 4ft 11in. to 5ft 4in. The extra 5in. means a growth increment of 2 ½ in. all round, equivalent to 0.07in. per year, or growth rings of nearly l/10in. per year. A tree such as this, nearing maturity, would not be growing as rapidly as a younger specimen, and annual growth of 0.07in.would seem quite reasonable. This value matches closely with estimates of growth from other parts of the Forest, namely 0.073in, 0.087in , 0.097in, 0.124in, per year over about 100 years. (Worcestershire Record No. 12 April 2002, page 13). For comparisons, radius is possibly more useful than girth, giving a linear idea of growth. Bearing in mind that growth rates are quite variable we can derive a rough estimate of age for the Goodmoor Oak based on the above rates. Dividing 2ft 8in. diameter by 0.07in. per year gives 457 years, and an origin of about 1547 AD. Using a faster growth rate of 0.124 in. we get 258 years (planted in 1746?). The present health and state of the free suggests a younger age and hence a faster growth rate.

Note: This paragraph has been corrected from the original publication - see Issue 17 p. 61

Above seven feet, the trunk decreases slightly then rises straight and smooth for perhaps 12ft, before increasing again as four massive branches diverge, with leaders at a high angle and laterals spreading widely. On the SE side, at 8-9ft, marks suggest that a low branch disappeared many years ago and high above, on the south side, a large branch broke off recently while in leaf, not during a storm, leaving a wound about 3ft long and 18in wide, allowing water to access the heart of the trunk. At the same level to the SW another substantial bough was also lost recently. Throughout the canopy about a dozen small branches have died.

The canopy is pleasingly symmetrical. The spread measured 96ft 9in. E-W and 98ft5in. N-S, only 19in. difference. Taking an average as 97ft 6in. one can compare with the 630 sq. yd. cover given by Dr. Hickin and make estimates of canopy growth over the intervening 35 years.

Thus in 1968:

Area of canopy: 630 sq yds x 9 = 5670 sq ft, divide by Pi (π) = 1804.55, square root = Radius of canopy = 42ft 6in. Hence: diameter of canopy = 85ft and the circumference = 89yds.

Making similar calculations with the present dimensions of canopy we obtain a set of values which can be used, along with those of girth and height, to reveal the pattern of growth.


1968 (Hickin)


Growth in 35 years


ft & in


ft & in


ft & in









Girth at 4ft 6in


18ft 9in



Girth at 6-7 ft

15ft 6in




1ft 3in


Diameter of trunk

4ft 11in


5ft 4in




Diameter of canopy



97ft 6in


12ft 6in


Radius canopy

42ft 6in


48ft 9in


6ft 3in


Area canopy

630 sq yds

527 m

830 sq yds




Perimeter of canopy

89 yds


102 yds


13 yds


Table 1. Measurements of Goodmoor Oak in 1968 (Hickin) and 2003

The height of the tree was estimated with an improvised theodolite, sighting a level base line of 40 metres (131.23ft), and measuring the angle to the topmost twigs. The tangent of this angle (31 degrees) multiplied by the base length gives a height of 78.11 ft. The level base line intercepts the trunk at 7ft , so this is added, giving a reasonably accurate total height of 85ft. (25.9 metres). Dr. Hickin quotes a height of 91ft, but without details of his method a valid comparison is difficult.

No one observing today would regard the tree as pyramid shape, as seemed to be the form in 1968, evidenced by Dr. Hickin's drawing. It is indeed more rounded than conical. Could it be that in recent years lateral branches have extended upwards to fill out the canopy leaving the height much the same. Photographs might be the only way to test the theory, but searches so far have not revealed any images of the tree in the nineteenth or twentieth centuries.

Currently The Woodland Trust is mounting a campaign to obtain protection for ancient trees similar to that which applies to buildings. One would hope for more security than buildings receive. Meanwhile Oaks nationwide may be threatened with Sudden Oak Death from the fungus Phytophyhora ramorum , which serves to emphasise the importance of monitoring and the significance of the biological records currently being assembled.

Written 30th April, 2004. Developed from article written for the Wyre Forest Study Group Annual Review ISSN 1744-0815.

HICKIN, NORMAN. 1971 The Natural History of an English Forest. Hutchinson.
STEPHENS BM 2002 The demise of the Mawley Oak. Worcestershire Record 12, pp 13-14

Photograph of the Goodmoor Oak 13th March 2003

Goodmoor oak from east

“Theodilite” used to measure height of Goodmoor oak.


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