Tuesday 28 August 2012

The Petrified Forest

David and I had heard of, but had never got round to visiting, the Petrified Oak Forest in Mundon, near Maldon, Essex, which is not so very far away from where we live.  As we're both fascinated by anything to do with trees, forests and woodland, we had to see for ourselves this unusual sight.  And now we've made our visit to the forest, I kind of think that we should have seen it in a storm, or on a darkening, winter afternoon, when the gnarled branches, like old men's fingers, cast long shadows over the ground...

But, instead, we visited on a bright, sunny morning in August.

The oaks are apparently centuries old - and they certainly look, now, as though they no longer belong in the landscape; as though the surrounding countryside is continuing a cycle of life without them.  But they haven't been abandoned altogether, because I've read that local wildlife, such as owls, can still be seen in and around the forest (I can just imagine visiting this place one late afternoon in winter, with owls hooting from the branches  - now that really would be a haunting experience).

The Domesday Book mentions an old settlement called Wringehala, which was once located around here.  But this has long since been lost.  Also lost is the old name for the hundred in this area: Wibrihtesherne.  The parishes in this area of the county are now part of the Dengie Hundred.

The Petrified Oak Forest looks out over the flat, open land that stretches down to the coast.  On its other side, stands the small, fourteenth century church of St Mary's.  This has been disused for decades, but has recently been restored and is now looked after by the Friends of Friendless Churches.  The church is open to visitors.

St Mary's Church, Mundon
The Petrified Forest and church are situated at the end of a country lane, but they can also be reached by walkers on St Peter's Way, a long distance footpath that runs across Essex, from Chipping Ongar to the remote, Saxon chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall, at Bradwell-on-Sea.


  1. very interesting, how true is the saying, we don't know what treasures are on our doorstep.

  2. Today I visited St Mary's church and the petrified forest, it was beautiful and atmospheric, I have lived in this area for about 27 years but only heard about the oaks quite recently, I visited the church many years ago but in was in a very poor state and was very creepy and had no idea about the ancient forest behind it. I cant believe there are so many hidden treasures on our own doorstep.

  3. My cousin and I visited this delightful little church this week as our mothers, twins, were born in the cottage close by and were christened here in 1926.

    A wonderful atmosphere.

  4. I have just been there today it was windy and dull. The grey cloudy sky was an excellent back drop for these beautiful old trees.
    Got a couple of lovely photos.
    I only live about 5 miles away and didn't know they were there. What a treasure just on the doorstep.

  5. Went to look at these trees yesterday in beautiful weather. The shutter on my friend's camera disturbed a Barn Owl which flew out of a hollow trunk and away towards the church. Such a treat!


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