The Trees of Summertown
Since I moved to Summertown in North Oxford nine mature trees have been cut down at the back of our house. When we first arrived, there was a natural wall of trees that sheltered us. It reminded me of the tall hedges we had around our house in Scotland, which I would have to climb up and to trim during the brief Scottish summer. A lot of academics live in Summertown and the first great tree to be cut down was replaced by a redundant study. It turned out that the couple that owned the house were both academics and retired at the same time – he, naturally, wanted a study of his own and the tree came down. There were once great fruit orchards here; now there are only a few scattered apple trees. We are only some twenty minutes walk from Port Meadow and the poplars of Binsey that inspired Hopkins’ 1879 poem. Even then, he lamented the cutting down of trees that ‘quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun’.
Sean Gaston is an academic and lives in Oxford.