The White Leaved Oak of Malvern
Updated: Nov 21
White Leaved Oak is a tiny hamlet that lies almost hidden at the very southern end of the Malvern Hills on the very edge of Worcestershire. I first learnt of the place from a very odd man on an old bicycle who randomly asked me if I knew about “the druid school” while I was drinking from one of the springs on the hills.
The village itself is almost THE archetypal English country hamlet, made up of barely a dozen beautiful cottages in a valley between the hills of Raggedstone and Chase End. A tiny patch of lawn forms the hamlet centre which still has it's punishment stocks in situ! It got it's name from a vast and supposedly mutated oak tree that bore variegated white leaves. It was referenced in the report of a forest warden in 1584, saying “A greate oake cauled the white leved oake which bereth white leaves “. Heading along the lane past the stocks brings the walker to a huge sloping field with the oak forests of Raggedstone Hill to it's right. Continue on past a natural mound atop a grass covered ridge. But then you look down into the next field, and you see it – or rather, you don't.
On a rocky ridge looking south west once stood the White Leaved Oak. It was indeed vast, but whether this is the same one that gave the village it's name? Unfortunately there were no leaves, as this oak was very much dead. Looking at similar sized oaks that have been dated, I'd say this must have been about 1000 years old, but then again it could be much older as nobody knows when it began to die. “Clooties” adorned the branches, cloth offerings tied to symbolise wishes and revere the tree. I also saw an iron horseshoe and dozens of other objects placed in it's many natural alcoves. This is a very important centre for modern paganism and the tree was the equal of any standing stone, but it's not widely known about.
The Circle of Perpetual Choirs is an idea that claims choirs of druids maintained a constant chanting, presumably on some kind of shift basis, in huge circles around the southwest of Britain.
John Michell presented this theory in the 1970s in his book “The View From Atlantis”. This writer, columnist. UFOlogist and thinker was a friend of various bands and celebrities in his day, taking the Rolling Stones on guided tours of Stonehenge, and he was actually the designer of the first pyramid stage at Glastonbury festival. It's position, facing aspect and dimensions are still to his calculations. Michell claimed that all the Perpetual choir circles formed a circle themselves and if you took the centre point of each one, and drew lines to connect them all up, you would create a decagon – with the White Leaved Oak at it's exact centre. In addition, he noted that both Glastonbury Tor and Stonehenge are exactly equal distances from the Oak.
The site had such a spiritual draw that David Icke, the well-known conspiracist, made several trips here and declared it a “centre of earth energy”, while the actor Patrick Stewart tried unsuccessfully to buy a house in the village, so smitten was he with the place and its atmosphere. Dowsers have traced several strong lines emanating from the site of the old tree so is there something to this? It is worth noting that the three counties of Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire all coverge borders with one another at this exact place.
So why am I talking in the past tense about the White Leaved Oak? The summer of 2020 was a strange one as the national lockdown was still in force, but on the night of the 7th of July a fire took hold of the great tree which, despite the efforts of the fire brigade, burned the oak to ashes, roots and all. Initial blame was directed at people camping out who had placed candles in the branches of the oak then fled when the fire broke out, but as time went on other individuals were pointed out and various theories put forward, with the concensus among a lot of them being that this had been a deliberate act, to “renew” the site!
Although the White Leaved Oak is now gone there are “children” growing from its acorns from the bank so I hope that in the future this wonderfully peaceful place will once again regain its spiritual status, but in any case it is still well worth a visit with Raggedstone Hill overlooking the village.
I take a very deep dive into the stories of the
Malvern Hills, including the White Leaved Oak, in my book The Mystery Of Mercia II, available now.