A new William Barnes oak tree for Athelhampton House

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Members of the William Barnes society with Giles Keaton, owner of Athelhampton (front, second left)

On a rainy Sunday at the end of November, a very special Barnes Oak sapling was planted on the gardens of Athelhampton House by members of the William Barnes Society.
William Barnes was a 19th century English polymath, writer, philologist, priest, mathematician, engraving artist and inventor. He was perhaps best known, however, as a poet, writing more than 800 poems in the Dorset dialect. He was also the co-founder of Dorset Museum.
He was born and spent his childhood in the hamlet of Bagber, just outside Sturminster Newton. Along the route he would have walked into town there still stands a large oak tree, which has been locally named the The Barnes Oak – this was the tree he wrote about in his poem The Girt Woak Tree That’s In the Dell.
Mark North, Dorset Museum’s marketing officer, explained how the saplings came about: ‘During covid I visited his birthplace, and also the Barnes Oak. The floor of the path was full of acorns that had fallen from the tree, and I decided to gather as many as I could, take them home and grow trees from them. The idea of the project was to carry on the legacy of the girt woak tree and to plant them in other places that are associated with Barnes.’
The Athelhampton sapling was purchased especially for the gardens at Athelhampton at a fundraising auction earlier this year.

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