7 of Suffolk’s most interesting trees

Old Knobbley tree in Mistley.

Old Knobbley tree in Mistley. - Credit: Archant

The Horror Tree, Stowlangtoft 

If you’re ever in the grounds of Stowlangtoft Hall after dark, be sure to look out for the infamous Horror Tree. At around 70 feet tall, this impressive beech tree is aptly named due to its horrifying face-like appearance – complete with creepy eyes and open mouth. So creepy in fact, you’d easily be forgiven for thinking this tree had come straight out of a Disney or Harry Potter film thanks its haunting and eerie formation.

Stowlangtoft's infamous beech tree - complete with scary face 

Stowlangtoft's infamous beech tree - complete with scary face - Credit: Archant

The Shakespearean Memorial Tree, Ipswich 

Located within Christchurch Park’s arboretum is The Shakespearean Memorial Tree – a blue atlas cedar that was planted back in 1864 in order to commemorate the 300th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birthday.  

Old Knobbley, Mistley  

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Just over the county lines in North Essex, Old Knobbley is thought to date back to the 13th century. At over 13 feet tall and 36 feet wide, the tree, which is situated in Mistley Furze Hills, has a fascinating history.  

Many believe the tree acted a sanctuary for witches in the 17th century, as the area was famously home to Matthew ‘Witch-Finder General’ Hopkins who lived in nearby Manningtree, and it is thought those who were accused of witchcraft would find shelter in its crack and crevices. More recently, the area was used by the British Army as a station during the First World War - and Old Knobbley was one of the only trees in the vicinity to survive, as many were cut down for their wood.  

Old Knobbley tree in Mistley

Old Knobbley in Mistley - Credit: Archant

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Gospel Oak, Polstead 

Unfortunately no longer growing, Gospel Oak in Polstead was one of Suffolk’s most iconic veteran trees. The now-dead tree stands between the church and Polstead Hall, and has longstanding connections to local folklore and legend. Reportedly, Anglo-Saxon missionary St Cedd would preach under the tree in around 653AD. A common feature in Anglo-Saxon villages, gospel oaks would often be located at crossroads, boundaries and other spots of importance, and would be used as shrines for praying.  

When Polstead’s gospel oak sadly collapsed in 1953, it was discovered through the process of dendrochronology that the tree had over 1,400 growth rings within – meaning historians have been able to work out it would have been at least 100 years old during the reign of King Anna of East Anglia. Nearby the old tree is a descendant tree which has since been used as the location of an annual church service held by St Mary’s Church – carrying on the tradition of St Cedd.  

Captain’s Wood Veteran Oak, Sudbourne 

Captain’s Wood is a 62-acre ancient woodland in Sudbourne, and is home to a variety of wildlife including deer, bats and barn owls. However, another attraction within this nature reserve is the forest’s impressive veteran pollard oak tree.  

At an estimated 32-feet tall, the Captain’s Wood veteran oak supports several species of fungi who depend on the slowly rotting heartwood. A veteran tree generally refers to a tree that typically has reached a point in its lifespan where it’s no longer growing and is past its useful commercial life – but still provides a key habitat for local flora and fauna. 

Captain’s Wood's veteran oak supports several species of fungi who depend on the tree's slowly rotting heartwood

Captain’s Wood's veteran oak supports several species of fungi who depend on the tree's slowly rotting heartwood - Credit: Steve Aylward

The Tree Party Oak, Ickworth 

Home to over 1,800 acres of parkland and sprawling gardens, Ickworth Park near Bury St Edmunds is where you will find one of the county’s oldest oak trees. Quaintly dubbed the Tea Party Oak, this natural wonder gets its nickname from when local children used to gather and have tea parties beneath its towering, gnarled stature. Thought to be over 700 years old, this impressive oak has a diameter of over nine metres. 

The Tea Party Oak in Ickworth

The Tea Party Oak in Ickworth - Credit: National Trust Images

Christchurch’s Park yew tree, Ipswich 

Just a stone’s throw away from the park’s cenotaph is a six-hundred-year-old English yew tree that towers over the grounds. It is thought that the historic tree has been stood there since Henry V’s reign which began in the late 13th century, and is believed to be older than Christchurch Mansion, which was built in 1548. 

Do you have a favourite tree that didn’t make the list? Share your stories and pictures with danielle.lett@archant.co.uk 

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