Our woods and forests have long been steeped in vibrant folklore which has entwined romance and trees for centuries.
With the unmistakeable whiff of love in the woodland air, here’s Forestry Commission England’s guide to the myths, fairy tales and quirks that make woods and forests some of the most romantic places on earth.
Traditional tokens of love…
In many traditions, declarations of love were expressed through the exchange of love tokens. One example of this can be found in Wales, where it became popular to make a specially carved ‘love spoon’ for your beloved (although acceptance of a spoon did not necessarily lead to marriage).
Due to its dense straight grain and pale colour (free of blemishes), sycamore was the most commonly used wood for creating these spoons.
Acorn-ucopia of love
If you’d like to know if your relationship will stand the test of time, find two acorns (one for you and one for your partner), then drop your acorns into a bucket of water at the same time. If the acorns float towards each other, then your romance will go from strength to strength.
If they don’t, try again…
The Big Belly Oak in the Forestry Commission’s historic Savernake Forest, Wiltshire, is around 1,100 years old. It took root at around the time William the Conqueror defeated King Harold in 1066 and is known as the great-grandfather of Savernake.
Sowing the seeds of love
The winged seeds of the ash have long been used by people to find out what their future love life has in store. If winged seeds did not appear on the branches of an ash tree, the owner of the tree was thought to be unlucky in love. It was also believed that if a lady placed an ash leaf in her left shoe, she would be fortunate enough to meet her future spouse within minutes.
Alternatively, you could find your intended love by repeating the following verse:
‘Even-ash, even-ash, I pluck thee,
This night my own true love to see,
Neither in his bed nor in the bare,
But in the clothes he does every day wear.’
Core, I really fancy you!
It is said that if a person wants to entice another, they should sleep with an apple under their arm. If they can persuade the person to eat the apple the following day, the person will fall in love with them immediately.
If the sweaty apple approach doesn’t work, try buying them a cider or a refreshing apple juice instead. Apples are aphrodisiacs!
Will you snare a millionaire?
Ever wondered what job your future partner will be employed in? If so, the cherry tree can help. After eating cherries, count out your cherry stones while reciting the following poem (one stone per word - if you have more than eight stones, start the poem again):
‘Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief’
The profession spoken on your last cherry stone will be your future spouse’s calling.
The Forestry Commission’s National Arboretum at Westonbirt, Gloucestershire, has a stunning cherry collection that is perfect for spring walks.
The secret of a fruitful marriage
The hazelnut is a symbol of fertility. A bag of nuts bestowed upon a bride will ensure a fruitful marriage. Hazelnuts can also be used for love spells. Assign the name of your passion to a nut and throw it in the fire whilst saying:
“A hazelnut I throw in the flame,
to this nut I give my sweetheart’s name,
If blazes the nut, so may thy passion grow,
For twas my nut that did so brightly glow.”
Eternal beauty elixir!
Hawthorn was thought to increase fertility and was often incorporated into weddings, especially those performed in the spring. It is also said that if a young woman wishes to remain beautiful forever, she should bathe in the dew of the hawthorn tree at dawn on Beltane (the first day of May) while chanting this rhyme:
“The fair maid, who on the first of May,
Goes to the fields at the break of day,
And bathes in the dew from the hawthorn tree,
Will ever strong and handsome be.”
Everybody hurts, sometimes
Unlike other trees with romantic links, the willow tree has a dark side! For although many cultures include the willow in their love stories, its weeping branches have often led it to be associated with the sadness that can come with love - from the broken heart of unrequited love to the loss of a loved one.
100% natural, calorie-free heartbreak remedy
Poplar buds can be carried in tiny red bags to help mend a broken heart. These buds should be kept as close to the heart as possible. They can also be placed under a pillow and slept on to the same effect.
Carved with love
Couples looking to immortalise their love have often carved their initials and a heart on the bark of a tree, thus creating an arborglyph. Historically, arborglyphs were considered to be a romantic form of artistic expression that would last many years.
Chantel Summerfield, an expert on arborglyphs, has studied such carvings by American WW1 soldiers in England and is currently investigating a site at Lyndhurst in the New Forest. Look out for the chance to buy your own personalised arborglyph from www.theforestryshop.com.
What will you be doing for Valentine's Day?
For ideas of places to visit, go to www.forestry.gov.uk/visit