Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Celebrating Royal Oaks

A little-known aspect of Meaford’s 150-year-old history is the Royal Oak grove that hides in the Bighead River valley. The story dates to 1939 when the first King to ever visit Canada travelled across the country by train to boost patriotism for the coming Second World War. George VI and his wife Elizabeth 1st (whom we knew as the Queen Mother) passed out acorns from the giant trees of Windsor Park in England as souvenirs. Several people in Meaford planted the acorns and grew these trees that were then transplanted into the valley on land donated by Stanley Knight Ltd.

Recently that land was donated to the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy. In the process of doing an exploratory inventory, the extent of the oaks was discovered. There are at least 200 trees that are now growing hidden in the deep forest. Some of the more visible ones have been found growing on the John Muir cabin site.

Blue jays have spread the acorns and some were planted on a neighbouring orchard where the former Boy Scout camp existed. As the orchard was about to be reduced this year, several special oak trees were saved and have been donated and planted in Beautiful Joe Park.

This past month, a ceremony took place at Beautiful Joe Heritage Society to honour the royal trees and the historic 130-year-old history of the connection of Beautiful Joe (the dog) to Victorian times in Meaford. Master Gardener John Hethrington addressed the group gathered for the event. Robert Burcher and John Howard also gave a presentation on the royal oaks. A nice touch at the event were two corgis (Hannah and Ruby), favourite dogs of the late Queen Elizabeth.

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