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Bright Floodplain Lights 6. The Three Mile Oak

Along the canal, three miles from town and three miles from the house grows the oldest and largest oak tree that can be found anywhere amongst the fields or forests for a long way around. If you sit amongst the roots on the south west side you have found the only place I know of in all the river’s valley that one can both look out as far as the eye can see and see nothing shaped by human hands for two hundred years.

The canal was laid out then and the little fields were already there and the woods that surround them when, like this oak they were saplings shadowed by long-fallen mothers. There is one modern survival but it can’t be seen directly from here, a train track runs between the fields and the woods and each half hour a two-carriage passenger train passes by. The same train that goes on to separate the halves of the village into good and bad and rolls along the line of the Roman wall that quietens the sound from the road. It is not an unwelcome intrusion into that place and I would often sit and wait until dusk when the train’s lights were turned on and glowed through the darkening grass.

I crossed the canal in a rowing boat once and went over to the other bank. It was unreachable otherwise unless you went for miles around and crossed the fields and there was no fence, I pulled the boat up at the low bank where the cows would come down to drink but I decided to go no further. I didn’t want to intrude in the place any more than I would have wanted someone else to. I stood a little and went back, sailing through the reeds and blue dragonflies as the train came by.

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