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Science
THE OAK TREE
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An extraordinary fictional story of the life of a thousand year old Oak tree in Northumberland set against an evocative soundscape.
Monday to Friday 20-24 March 2006 3.45pm-4.00pm

Peter France narrates the extraordinary fictional story of the life of a thousand year old Oak tree - from acorn to sapling to mighty tree, and the changing face of the landscape around it. This is a dramatic and evocative acoustic journey following the history of the oak tree, and its woodland home.

An oak tree

The story of The Oak Tree is fictional but based on fact. Three wildlife experts; Phil Gates (Botanist from Department of Biological Science, University of Durham), Mike Dilger (Naturalist) and Steven Head (Director of the Ponds Conservation Trust) join Peter to unfold the history and natural history of the Oak tree.

Using specially-placed microphones to record the sounds of wildlife in and around the oak tree, the series is also an immersive listen, capturing the sounds of the changing seasons and the wildlife in and around the tree. The wildlife sound recordist is Chris Watson.

Fungi growning on an oak tree. Fossil leaves and pollen show that there have been oaks in Britain for at least a million years, but have come and gone in the warm periods between ice ages. Since oak trees first arrived in Britain the landscape has changed dramatically: forests have been plundered for shipbuilding, charcoal, smelting and working iron.

The industrial revolution and mechanisation have all had their impact on the landscape and our oaks. But throughout time, the Oak has always been the most valuable of all our trees, prized for its timber for charcoal and small wood.

A piece of dead oak tree, perfect for various insects.There are about 350 different species of insects which are supported by Oak - this is more than any other species of tree. A single tree may have more than 30 different species of lichen growing on its bark. Huge numbers of creatures seek food and shelter in the crevices of the bark, amongst the canopy of fresh green leaves, the hollow trunks of old trees, the leaf litter and branches of dead and rotting wood on the forest floor. The oak tree supports a myriad of life.

This series offers not only a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the magic of the acoustic world of the oak tree and the woodland, but also highlights the special character of oak trees and their importance to our landscape and wildlife heritage.

Programme 1: Monday 20 March 3.45pm -4.00pm


In a wood in Northumberland a gentle breeze tugs at the last remaining leaves still clinging to the oaks. At the edge of the woodland stands the oldest tree; its branches dripping with lichens and mosses; its huge trunk deeply fissured with cracks and crevices.

For over a thousand years this majestic oak has stood here providing food and shelter for hundreds of animals. But its only by travelling back in time that we discover how the life of this tree began .....

It's Autumn ... and there's a terrible storm. An oak tree is struck by lightening and sheds the last of its acorn crop. The nuts are scattered across the woodland floor; some rot away, some are eaten and some are buried beneath the leaf litter. In time, some of these will germinate and give rise to new oak saplings. Our oak is amongst them. 

 Listen again to Programme 1
.

Programme 2: Tuesday 21 March 3.45pm - 4.00pm

The acorn which germinated as a sapling in an Anglo Saxon hedge is now a mature tree.

Its winter, and whilst the oak at first glance, appears lifeless, insects seek out shelter in its fissured bark, squirrels chase one another up and down its trunk and a mistle thrush sings from its highest branch.

 Listen again to Programme 2
.

Programme 3: Wednesday 22 March 15.45 -16.00

Its early spring, and a feeding frenzy begins as the young leaves of the oak break free from the protection of their bud scales; and act as a magnet for hungry caterpillars, which in turn provide food for birds.

 Listen again to Programme 3
.

Programme 4: Thursday 23 March 3.45pm - 4.00pm

Its late spring, and the Oak tree canopy is a hive of activity as adult birds flit in and out of the canopy with food for their nestlings.

In the early morning, the woodland rings with the sound of the dawn chorus, and woodpeckers can be heard drumming on the bark of hollow, old oaks.

 Listen again to Programme 4
.

Programme 5: Friday 24 March 3.45pm - 4.00pm

Its summer, and the oak tree produces a second crop of leaves the lammas growth to replace its now tatty spring canopy.

Our thousand year old is a majestic tree, dripping with mosses and lichens, but what does the future hold for such an iconic symbol of our landscape? The threats from disease and climate changes on our oak trees are considered.

 Listen again to Programme 5
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