A magnificent oak tree plants the seed for a Buckingham man’s first children’s book

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A Buckingham man has written a picture book that aims to educate children about trees and woods and how to plant and care for them.

Quercus the oak is the first in a series of stories that Linden Village resident Neil Morton first dreamed up 30 years ago when his own children were young.

It was illustrated by 18-year-old Buckingham resident Zaria Mmanga.

Neil Morton with his book

Neil, 75, said: ‘The idea started in 1992. I was a land agent at Bucks County Council and we were managing quite a bit of woodland in the Chilterns and I was designing a nature trail in a wood near of Denham.

“And while designing this trail, I came across this beautiful oak tree, and it was what we would call ‘veneer quality’ – it was absolutely perfect, straight as a dice. There was no branch sticking out from the bole of the tree about 30 feet and was 5 feet in diameter.

“And I thought to myself, how the hell could this tree have survived for so long and been such a magnificent specimen? It was what the Forestry Commission called a “tree bank” – they collected the seeds. And that got me thinking.”

Neil, who has worked in forestry all his life, started making up stories about Quercus the oak tree for his son, Roger.

Quercus the oak

“I wrote the first two books pretty quickly,” he said. “Sitting in a wood looking around I decided to tell a story about how a small acorn grew into a big tree.”

“Forestry has been a passion of my life and I can do anything from felling a tree to sawing and maintaining it, so I know what those little trees have to endure.

“And the story is based on that – it’s an education for young children in the routines of a wood, wrapped up in a story about the relationships of the trees to each other.”

And Neil has more books in the series lined up, following Quercus as he grows into a mature oak tree.

“I’ve written four of the books and I’m on my fifth,” he said. “And assuming I live long enough, I’ll make it to book 10!”

And he added: “You’d be amazed at how much of an effect historical events have on timber management.”

“Book eight is the Napoleonic Wars and the Battle of Trafalgar, and this tree, Quercus, who is now quite tall, meets Lord Nelson walking through the woods.

“Because it’s a historical fact that Nelson was stunned that 6,000 trees had to be felled to build The Victory, so he was determined to go around and replant some of the deficit.”

Books 9 and 10 cover the period from World War I to the present day.

“I’m not going to tell you the ending of the story because I haven’t quite decided,” Neil said, “but the real ending is a bit drastic and has already happened.”

Neil hopes the instructions in his books will help schools learn how to design nature walks and take care of trees.

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