The Poem Tree

The Clumps have inspired poets and artists alike for generations. Poet Joseph Tubb, of Warborough, carved a wonderful poem in the bark of a beech tree on Castle Hill in the years 1844-45. Tubb carved the poem over two weeks in the summer. Taking a ladder and a tent with him he carved from memory, regularly forgetting to take the original copy with him! Over the years, it became impossible to decipher all but a handful of letters of the poem, but a nearby plaque now allows visitors to feel the passion that this Victorian vandal had for the local landscape and its history.

Joseph Tubb’s Poem

As up the hill with labr’ing steps we tread
Where the twin Clumps their sheltering branches spread
The summit gain’d at ease reclining lay
And all around the wide spread scene survey
Point out each object and instructive tell
The various changes that the land befell
Where the low bank the country wide surrounds
That ancient earthwork form’d old Mercia’s bounds
In misty distance see the barrow heave
There lies forgotten lonely Cwichelm’s grave.

Around this hill the ruthless Danes intrenched
And these fair plains with gory slaughter drench’d
While at our feet where stands that stately tower
In days gone by up rose the Roman power
And yonder, there where Thames smooth waters glide
In later days appeared monastic pride.
Within that field where lies the grazing herd
Huge walls were found, some coffins disinter’d
Such is the course of time, the wreck which fate
And awful doom award the earthly great.

Sadly, the Poem Tree toppled in recent years. The tree died in the 1990s but had been safely left for visitors and as a habitat for wildlife. Unfortunately once the base completely rotted, fluctuating weather conditions proved too much for the ancient trunk. The Poem tree was found leaning precariously onto a nearby hawthorn tree, and had to be quickly winched to the ground in order to keep the area safe for visitors.

The famous Poem Tree now lies in pieces as nature intended; the deadwood will provide valuable habitat and nutrients to the surrounding area. The Poem Tree is sorely missed by the Earth Trust team and, we are sure, by all that have visited this magical piece of natural history over the years.

Poem Tree Tribute

After 300 years atop Castle Hill at the Wittenham Clumps, the famous Poem Tree fell in recent years. This page is a tribute to the tree that meant so much to so many people, contributions will be used to create a permanent on-site display about the Poem Tree. If you’d like to send in a tribute to the Poem Tree such as a memory, poem or photo, or have any questions, please email: [email protected].

The Poem Tree by Susan Small

The poem tree stood three hundred years
Heard all our laughter shared all our tears
Stood strong and proud that handsome tree
Withstood the storms with dignity
On castle hill he stood with pride
Where we would leave our gifts inside

Now that he has stood the test
Nature has laid him down to rest
Now the creatures of the earth
Will do their courting and give birth
In this place for all we know
Maybe another tree will grow

Elsewhere at Earth Trust...

Back to Top