‘Living Witnesses’ to the Battle of Waterloo…
20th JULY 2016:
Latest News from Waterloo Uncovered Project is as we had suspected that several of the trees in the wood to the North of Hougoumont are in fact also 'Living Witness' Trees to the Battle of Waterloo.
The Waterloo Uncovered Project team have now visited the woods and carried out metal detecting of many of the larger/older trees here.
Taken here by my great friend and fellow Tree hunter, Marc Meyer, we were unsure of just what we would discover....
On the 18th June 2015 it will be two hundred years since the bloody battle that saw so much death and destruction in the fields and woodlands around Waterloo. A battle that changed the shape of European history, even to this day.
We pay our respects & pray for all that died in this confilcit.
However, there were survivors of the slaughter that day. Winesses to the crucial fight for control of Hougoumont. One especially, still stands tall in the bucolic Belgium countryside , some 20km or so south of Brussels. These survivors, like many of the fallen that fateful day, took many hits from the musket balls and cannons of both armies. I have personally seen close up, the damage inflicted by hundreds of musket balls. The archaeological project Waterloo Uncovered has found many traces of metal inside the trees. It is now claimed also that these musket balls in the wooded area at the south of Hougoumont were amongst the first shots fired in the Battle of Waterloo. READ MORE >
This survivor I talk of, is....
a massive, gnarled, ancient, 6 metre plus girthed Sweet Chestnut tree (Castenea sativa). One of three trees that were at the fore front of the action on the Napoleonic farmhouse at Hougoumont.
The veteran tree must now be close to 300 years old. It stood with its two, now dead siblings, at the front of what was at the time, a wooded area. The location and density of this wood was a factor in the outcome at Hougoumont that day and, therefore, the battle. The fact is that the woodlands prevented the French army from bringing its powerful cannons close enough to inflict damage to the walled perimeter of the farm and the orchard.
One thing that I have learnt in my ten years of tree hunting, is that trees are intrinsically linked to humans and are culturally intertwined with us in so many ways. This continuing research here at Hougoumont just proves this so vividly.
So it was this day. As we walked the site, layers of history unfolded before our eyes . Layers of human history and tree history, joined. As I was to discover later, many more trees also played a part in this fateful day.
Taken here by my great friend and fellow Tree hunter, Marc Meyer, we were unsureo of just what we would discover. We were, shall we say, a little unaware of just how significant Hougoumont was in the story of Waterloo.
Each day it seems brings forth more compelling evidence that there were many Waterloo trees that witnessed the battle around Hougoumont. Thanks to the hard work of Marc.
We were so lucky to meet two Coldstream Guards Officers at Hougoumont when we visited. Thanks to Hugo & Charles for letting me film them.
Click on the video to get an idea of just how significant the battle was.
This historic occasion of the 200th anniversary is being marked by many events in the UK & Belgium. The largest ever Battle of Waterloo re-enactment is taking place in the fields of Waterloo with over 5,000 Napoleonic soldiers taking part.
Sadly the tickets are SOLD OUT! READ MORE >
An already famous Waterloo tree is the Waterloo Elm
This Elm tree became the site of the Duke of Wellingtons 'Command Post' for most of the Battle of Waterloo. Standing on the ridge that the British held the commander stood and sat on his horse by this Elm tree. At intervals he would ride out to his troops elsewhere in the battle including Hougoumont. He nearly came unstuck several times with the French Cavalry charges but always made it back to his Elm Tree Command Post.
The Waterloo Elm tree became a place of pilgrimage in the years after the battle and in fact the owner, a Belgian farmer wqas due to cut the tree down as his crops were damaged by the Tree Tourists. Luckily at the same time a Mr John Children from the British Museum was visiting the area and heard of this plan. He quickly arranged to buy the tree and have it shipped back to England where many great items were made from its wood including the famous Waterloo Elm Chair that was presented to King George. It is now on exhibition along with an amazing drawing of the tree done by his dayughter Anna whilst the tree was still in position on the ridge at Waterloo. it gives an indication of the damge to the base of the tree.
Images by kind permission of Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015.
These are now on exhibition at Waterloo200 at Windsor Castle READ MORE >
This great Waterloo Chestnut tree has now been nominated as an entrant into the Belgian Tree of the Year 2015 contest by Marc Meyer & Roel Jacobs. Personally, I think it will do very well in this competition and may well go on to win the 2016 European Tree of the Year next February. The tree has such a story to tell. So much history to divulge yet.
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