Sunday, 2 April 2017

Seeing the trees in the woods

I went for a lovely walk yesterday under the guidance of local historian Dr Peter Hill. He took a group of us to Thoroughsale and Hazel Woods in Corby, regaling us with the myths, legends and histories that have shaped the town. We showed us where to find a piece of Roman Road (preserved by the council from buildings and roads)  and a haunted gamekeeper's cottage, as well as pointing out 'faces' in tree trunks. This is the phenomenon of simulacrum (plural: simulacra), from the Latin for likeness. It's related to pareidolia, which is the psychologist's term for the brain's tendency to detect forms and faces in nature where none exists.

Peter explained about the four types of trees we saw: standards, those that were coppiced, those that had been pollarded and, a new term to me, stag trees, like the one pictured above. Hard to believe, but this is a dead tree, stripped of foliage and showing signs of having been burned at the base, but still standing with its 'antlers' held high.

Elsewhere, we saw a Gemini tree (right), made from two tree trunks apparently kissing. Legend has it that this was a popular courting place for a pair of star-crossed lovers. The boy was murdered and the grief-stricken girl killed herself on the same spot. Their souls were reunited forever in this tree.

If you ever need inspiration for a piece of writing, you could do a lot worse than visit the woods.


  1. Wow! What fabulous information - I worked as education officer for several years on a nature reserve and never came across the name 'stag tree'. Wish I'd known as the kids would have loved it.

  2. Thanks, Wendy. I definitely feel a story coming on...

  3. I've learned something new! I didn't know the name for the patterns that look like faces on tree trunks. Now I just need to remember it - perhaps I will write it down a few times 👵🏻

    1. Challenge yourself to drop it into conversation, Ms Rix.