In the centre of Eglinton, Co Derry, a truly English oak was planted for the coronation of Edward VII in 1902. This very special oak was grown from an acorn from one of the famous oak trees in Windsor Great Park around the royal residence of Windsor Castle.
The tree stands in a small grassy triangle, shaken by heavy lorries and traffic all round, but somehow attracting a dozen or more pairs of rooks to nest in its branches.
A more recent coronation oak is to be found in the heart of Derry City at Aberfoyle. This house and gardens, once the property of Sir Basil McFarland, is now owned by Magee College/University of Ulster.
The oak was planted to mark the coronation in 1953 of the present Queen Elizabeth II. While Sir Basil wielded the spade, the tree was handed over by John Magowan and his sister, children of the Aberfoyle head gardener. This early tree experience may have been formative for John – he worked for Conservation Volunteers Northern Ireland in Derry for some years!
The gardens are open to the public. Quite apart from fine trees and other plants, it is a haven for wildlife. On one visit, a treecreeper was working its way up along the branches of the Coronation oak, far more concerned with its next meal than with our presence.