The Meavy Royal Oak

The Meavy Oak or Meavy Royal Oak is one of the most famous and old trees in Devon. It is thought that the tree is over 900 years old and was planted in the reign of King John. Meavy is a village in south west Dartmoor not far from Yelverton and Sheepstor.

Meavy Oak 3
It is referred to as the Royal Oak as it is said that King Charles hid in the tree whilst fleeing from Cromwell’s troops in the 17th Century.

Meavy Oak 4

The oak is now hollow – indeed it has been for several centuries – the adjacent pub in the 17th century used to store peat for the fire in the cavity and it is suggested that in 1826 the landlady of the Royal Oak pub once held a dinner party for 9 people inside the tree.

Meavy Oak 5
In the 1970s measures very taken to protect the tree by installing wooden and steel props to give it support. The crown was also reduced to prevent it collapsing. The tree is very much still alive and in the following photograph you can see it is starting to come into leaf.

Meavy Oak 1
The tree predates the Church in the village which was built in the 12th Century. Before the Church was built it is thought that people gathered around the tree for Christian Services – it is therefore known also as a Gospel Oak. The Cross in front of the tree was erected in the 15th Century.

Meavy Oak 6
In this photograph you can also see the local pub – the Royal Oak to the left and further back on the Green is another oak which has been planted from an acorn from the Meavy Oak.

On the third Saturday of June every year the Meavy Oak Fair is held which involves the celebration of the tree, May Pole dancing, feasting and drinking. In days gone by the crown of the Meavy Oak was trimmed so a platform could be erected in it – people then climbed up via a ladder to eat drink and be merry in the tree!

The Legendary Dartmoor site also includes an old story about a tin miner, a wealthy traveller and the Meavy Oak – see here.

Lunch Royal Oak Meavy

After looking at and photographing this wonderful tree I went to the Royal Oak pub for lunch – ham, egg and chips which I was able to eat outside so I could view the tree at the same time. Fabulous on all counts.

It is a fantastic tree with an amazing history which has many years of life left in it as long as it is carefully looked after and tended which I am sure it will be as it is a central feature of the village.

My only concern about the tree is the ivy growing on it – I am not anti ivy and I don’t believe that ivy kills trees but looking at older pictures it does appear that the ivy is getting more prominent. I noticed a similar situation when I visited the 1000 year old Tortworth Oak (see here). This is what I wrote then

One final comment and some food for thought. I was told that historically the area where the Tortworth chestnut grows had been grazed. Today it is fenced off to protect the tree. It would appear that as a result ivy has been able to establish itself and it has started to colonise some of the trunks. Normally I am quite happy to see ivy growing on trees and would never want to remove it. However for such an ancient and venerable tree as this perhaps we should not allow ivy to establish – we wouldn’t let ivy grow on an ancient building in case it caused damage and because it would partially obscure the spectacle of the building.

It might be worth getting some advice from the Devon Ancient Tree Forum who know much more than I do about such things.


I thoroughly recommend a visit to see the Meavy Oak followed by a visit to the Royal Oak pub

4 thoughts on “The Meavy Royal Oak

  1. A lovely post and how generous to introduce readers to this marvellous tree! Beautiful, thank you. I really appreciated it. As an ecologist you’ll know that ivy is one part of the oak’s intertwined ecology with all its inhabitants.. Important to let nature take its course, whilst caring for the tree, obviously. People need to understand that we can’t go removing ivy willy nilly. It supports, bees, invertebrates, bats, nesting birds..

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