When trees grow old they have a story to tell

If only this tree could speak.
Often have I heard these words from people standing next to me in front of an old tree where branches and bark bear signs of age, wind and weather.
And in a way the old trees speak because stories are attached to them and retold again and again by people passing by.
Thus it is with the English Oak in Jaegersborg Deer Park:

Several years after the Bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807, a British soldier confessed an assassination on an English treasurer in the deer garden north of Copenhagen.
On his deathbed, he told that he and his buddy had buried the regiment chest with the soldiers salaries under the characteristic oak tree northeast of the Hermitage Castle.

The treasure was sought at the request of Queen Victoria, and there was a lot of digging around the old oak tree but the regiment chest didn’t materialise.

Arthur Wellesley led the occupation of Copenhagen in 1807.
The English formed a semicircle around Copenhagen from Svanemoellen to Kalveboderne
Some soldiers lived at Sorgenfri Castle in Kongens Lyngby, and camped in the deer garden, Jaegersborg Dyrehave.

The idyllic mass grave

People are passing by without paying any attention to the hawthorn grove in the forest at the gate of Taarbæk.
I often wonder if they are aware of the story.
Beneath the hawthorns is a mass grave. A grave for the victims of a cholera epidemic in Copenhagen back in 1853.
The many dead were driven on carts along the coast of Øresund to be buried inside the forest at Taarbæk.
There wasn’t enough burial ground left in Copenhagen for all the poor people who died of the epidemic.
I was speechless when I by a coincidence learned about the tragedy and the grave a few years back.

Old superstitions said that people got infected by plague if they sat on a grave and that is why the hawthorns were planted to avoid the epidemic from spreading.
The story also got my imagination working overtime, when I met a strange woman on a little path between the hawthorn a few years ago:

‘I went there on a late afternoon. It had just rained, it was cloudy and there was a sombre atmosphere about the place. Maybe I needed a rest, or maybe it was my meet with the woman who influenced me.
She was suddenly in front of me. Where did she come from? She was white-haired and pale. Eyes were dark and odd tinned at the same time. She looked right through me, and I made way, otherwise she had walked into me on the narrow path.
Some hours earlier, I had read several stories of peasants who constantly prohibit felling the hawthorn. Felling a hawthorn means disaster on animals and humans, and the old superstition is alive and well.
I wondered how far photography was included in the many legends and myths that exist around the trees. I took the chance and found several motifs, after which I gladly left the burial site. I was unusually tired when I got home, and I attributed it to the long day I had.

At night I woke up with severe pain in the stomach.: The Death and The Hawthorn

The place is very idyllic and a mass grave isn’t the first thing that pops up in your mind when looking at the small hawthorn grove.

A few kilometres away is a beautiful hawthorn plain at Springforbi.

It turns out that the two species of common hawthorns and single-seeded hawthorn cross spontaneously.

Hawthorns grow by insect pollination, so it can take place over long distances, also from Taarbæk. And the crossing is fertile: it continues to put seeds. The thorns that were planted on top of the cholera graves in the forest, was a single-seeded hawthorn and the one on the plain was a common hawthorn.

I read that many Hawthorns on the plain at Springforbi developed into a new subspecies and Christen Christiansen Raunkiær, Professor of Botany at the University of Copenhagen and Director of Botanical Gardens 1912-23 named it: Cratægus Eremitagensis.

On the first Saturday in June people visit the unique Hawthorn plain at Springforbi.
Some are dressed in white just like the hawthorns and all are celebrating the arrival of the summer.

But I often wonder if they know of the trees development 🙂