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The Real Herne's Oak?

This huge old oak tree is known as the Temple Oak, and it stands - just about - near Droitwich in Worcestershire. Its name derives from it being at the centre of a Knights Templar preceptory during the Middle Ages, but that's where the Templar connection ends.

Tradition claims that William Shakespeare stayed in the nearby village of Earl's Common for some time while a purge of Catholics went on, as a couple of his patrons at the time were recusants. Close enough to his home town of Stratford but far enough from London. He would have listened to the folklore tales of the area by the inn fireside, one of which seems to have particularly piqued his interest.

There are more stories of the legendary Wild Hunt originating in north Worcestershire than anywhere else in the world, with Harry Ca Nab, Callow, the Jovial Huntsman and others but one name loomed larger than others - Herne.

Local folklore claimed that Herne the Hunter actually haunted the Feckenham forest, cursed by the abbess of Bordesley Abbey, near today's Redditch, for killing her pet white stag. There never was an abbess, they were all male at Bordesley, so there isn't much in the way of historical truth here. However, the preponderance of other legendary huntsmen nearby does suggest there could be something in it.

Shakespeare wrote the Merry Wives of Windsor in a real hurry, with tradition telling us that it was written at Queen Elizabeth's request. If he did stay at Earl's Common then he would have seen the Temple Oak for himself and heard stories of the Wild Hunt, giving him the idea of having Falstaff hide in a hollow oak dressed as Herne the Hunter. Moving the action to Windsor Forest was a no-brainer if the play was for the Queen.

If Shakespeare really did stay in the area, then this 1200 year old fellow is the real Herne's Oak.

I take an exhaustive look at Herne the Hunter and the Wild Hunt in Worcestershire in my book The Mystery Of Mercia - available at

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