Capon tree set for TLC

A 1,000-year-old Borders oak tree which has survived against all the odds for generations is to undergo preservation work in a bid to extend its lifespan.

By Paul Kelly
Friday, 28th January 2022, 8:40 pm
Councillor Jim Brown at Jedburgh's Capon Tree. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)
Councillor Jim Brown at Jedburgh's Capon Tree. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)

The Capon Tree is indelibly rooted in the history of Jedburgh.

A tradition since the Jethart Callant’s Festival was launched 75 years ago is the pinning of a sprig from the famous old tree onto the Callant’s lapel.

One of the last survivors from the ancient Jedforest it is also one of only 50 included in the Tree Council’s book of Great British Trees.

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Councillor Jim Brown at Jedburgh's Capon Tree. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)

Its distinctive twisted form is thought to have prevented it being felled, as many others in the forest were, to build wooden ships for the British Navy up until the 19th century.

It has also survived through storms which have battered the region in recent years, including Storm Arwen just four months ago.

One of the biggest blows it suffered came at the end of June 2021, when one of its lower boughs was dislodged as the result of heavy rainfall.

Now efforts have been endorsed to help retain it for the enjoyment of future generations.

Members of Scottish Borders Council’s Cheviot Area Partnership last night, Wednesday, January 26, supported an application from Jedburgh Community Trust for funding of almost £1,800 to carry out work to preserve the historic tree.

Jedburgh and District Councillor Jim Brown gave his full backing to the funding bid.

He said: “The Capon Tree is very much part of Jedburgh’s history and annual festival activities.

“Lothian Estates, led by a group of local enthusiasts, are also keen to support its future and well-being.

“We need to consider consider how lucky this ancient tree has been to survive the shipbuilders axe when most of the UK oaks were threatened during the building of wooden war ships, perhaps the tree’s twisted form saved it then.

“More recently, severe storms were unsuccessful in causing much damage, other than one of its lower boughs being slightly dislodged.”

Any pruning of the tree will be sensitively done, Mr Brown said, adding: “Timber removed during pruning is to be carved into ornamental acorns and other keepsakes.”