Day 222 Mile 222: Quercus-Caucus Race

Lucombe oak tree Bangor Treborth GardensDay 222 Mile 222: Quercus-Caucus Race.

`What IS a Caucus-race?’ said Alice; not that she wanted much to know, but the Dodo had paused as if it thought that SOMEBODY ought to speak, and no one else seemed inclined to say anything.

`Why,’ said the Dodo, `the best way to explain it is to do it.’ (And, as you might like to try the thing yourself, some winter day, I will tell you how the Dodo managed it.)

First it marked out a race-course, in a sort of circle, (`the exact shape doesn’t matter,’ it said,) and then all the party were placed along the course, here and there. There was no `One, two, three, and away,’ but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over. However, when they had been running half an hour or so, and were quite dry again, the Dodo suddenly called out `The race is over!’ and they all crowded round it, panting, and asking, `But who has won?’

This question the Dodo could not answer without a great deal of thought, and it sat for a long time with one finger pressed upon its forehead (the position in which you usually see Shakespeare, in the pictures of him), while the rest waited in silence. At last the Dodo said, `EVERYBODY has won, and all must have prizes.’


This morning finds me in the Treborth Botanic Gardens doing a run through the woodland and bowled over by some of the trees that are here. Treborth Botanic Garden covers an area of 18 hectares on the shores of the Menai Strait and has been owned by Bangor University since 1960. The garden comprises 15ha of native woodland, 2ha of species rich unimproved grassland and 1ha managed orchard and many mature trees and shrubs. That analysis really doesn’t do justice to the majestic flora from all around the world which can be found here.


The run today describes a ‘sort of circle’ starting and ending (if a circle can) at an amazingly impressive Oak tree, shown in the photo. The Lucombe Oak (Quercus x hispanica lucombeana) is a very rare hybrid.  William Lucombe (1720 – 1785) was a horticulturalist and nurseryman. He noticed that one of the saplings produced from a Turkey Oak acorn he had planted kept its leaves in winter. He later observed that these features occurred where both parent species grew, Quercus cerris (Turkey Oak) and Quercus suber (Cork Oak). True Lucombe Oaks are clones of the original tree, but the name ‘Lucombe Oak’ is also often used to refer to any hybrid between Turkey Oaks and Cork Oaks.

* * *

800px-Quercus_cerrisThe European Turkey Oak – Quercus cerris gains it’s name from one of it’s native source Countries. It was introduced to Britain in 1735 as a substitute timber for the English oak – Quercus robur which was, at that time, the main timber provision. However it proved disappointing with it’s wood being poor quality and brittle and only being good for panelling, gaining it its other name of ‘Wainscot’ oak. It’ s popularity stemmed from its fast growth, adaptability and strange mossy acorn cups, or more correctly, cupules. It grows to a height and spread of 30m.

Mature_Cork_OakThe Cork Oak – Quercus suber, is a medium sized evergreen oak native to South West Europe. It grows to 20m in height and is identifiable by it’s thick rugged spongy bark, or cork. It is this cork that made this tree so popular, with the bark being harvested every 10 to 12 years primarily for the wine trade, growing specifically in those regions, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain, amongst others, with Portugal being the main source, with the industry producing in excess of 250,000 tonnes each year, a vast quantity considering how light cork is.

* * *

Lucombe felled the original hybrid in 1785, keeping timber from it from which his coffin was to be made when he died. He stored the boards under his bed. However, he lived an exceptionally long life, dying at the age of 102 years. By that time the planks had decayed in the Devon dampness. Instead, on his death, timber from one of his early graft propagations was used to make his coffin.

This particular tree is amazing, planted in about 1850 it has a thick stocky trunk which whirls and twists with the eddies of age. This supports long curving limbs which flow outwards like ribbon payed out under-water beneath the dark green of the leaves and the starburst of sunshine from above.

The run carried on through the clear morning air past many other impressive trees with the light dappling down from the sky and across from the aquatic reflections of the Menai Straits. This looped around for 3/4 of a mile or so through Red Squirrel inhabited woodland before emerging into the light of a newly mowed field  where the Britannia Bridge and lights from athletics track peer over trees.

A quarter of a turn around the track takes me back onto the road that leads back into the gardens to close the loop of the Quercus Caucus route, once again at the foot of the tree ready to declare myself the winner!

I’m running a mile each day everyday for 2017. If you feel you can sponsor me please do, as all the money raised will go to the Cleft Lip & Palate Association (CLAPA) who provide services all across the UK to support people affected by it.

Distance: 1760.3 meters recorded

(1 mile = 1609.34 m.)
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