The Lagan Valley between Belfast and Lisburn is still a tree-rich area. Best known was the great oak at Belvoir Park Forest, recorded by the famous photographer Robert Welch and considered to be well over 300 years old over a century ago. This tree was taken as the crest of the family resident at Belvoir – Deramore or great oak.
One large oak near the Motte is still known as the Belvoir oak though it is not recognisable as Welch’s tree, which was huge. This one is still wonderfully impressive, low-growing with branches that are accessible to children – and so big they look like a group of trunks rising from the ground. The tree is flourishing, bearing a mass of leaves, and a great crop of acorns most years.
Thanks to the local initiative ‘Friends of Belvoir’ many of the acorns have been gathered, germinated, and young saplings planted out in the area. Offspring of the great oak will grow up close by, but it is to be hoped that the grandfather of them all has many healthy years ahead.
Oak trees are long-lived, given the chance. They may take hundreds of years to reach maturity, last for hundreds in their prime and then take a few hundred more years to decline.