The Gilwell Oak – Essex, England - Atlas Obscura

The Gilwell Oak

The history of this famed tree ranges from an 18th-century highway robber, to the Scout Association.  

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What do the famous highwayman Dick Turpin and one of the biggest youth movements in the world have in common? Well not much, outside a shared history with this 500-year-old tree.

The Gilwell Oak is a common English oak situated in a section of Essex that was once covered by the Epping Forest. The infamous highwayman Dick Turpin used the oak as a hiding place during his 1730s stagecoach robberies. More pleasant associations arose over the years as the Scout Association purchased the Gilwell Estate in 1919 to serve as their headquarters. The area next to the oak was used to train scout leaders. Wooden beads were often given to leaders upon finishing this training. They were traditionally made from the Gilwell Oak. 

The Gilwell Oak also inspired founder, Robert Baden-Powell to create “the moral of the acorn and the oak.” The metaphor stood for the growth of the scout movement and the moral growth of members. The iconography of the acorn and the oak is still strong among the scouts. One of the highest honours a scout can receive is the Silver Acorn. The Gilwell Oak was chosen as the Woodland Trust’s UK “Tree of the Year” in 2017.

Know Before You Go

Gilwell Park is publicly accessible, but is closed for scouting events. Check the Scout Association website before visiting. There are large carparks located on-site. 

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