'This is a national treasure': 5,000-year-old fossilised oak tree discovered near Ely in 2012 will be turned into iconic table

PUBLISHED: 16:57 24 June 2019 | UPDATED: 16:57 24 June 2019

Giant 13.4 metre 5,000 year old oak found in Ely fens

Giant 13.4 metre 5,000 year old oak found in Ely fens

Archant

A 5,000-year-old fossilised oak tree discovered near Ely in 2012 is set to be transformed into an iconic sculptured table.

A 5,000-year-old fossilised oak tree discovered near Ely in 2012 is set to be transformed into an iconic sculptured table. When the boards arrived at The BCC in 2012. Picture: PROJECT TEAMA 5,000-year-old fossilised oak tree discovered near Ely in 2012 is set to be transformed into an iconic sculptured table. When the boards arrived at The BCC in 2012. Picture: PROJECT TEAM

The unique Fenland Black Oak Project has seen a team of craftspeople preserve the tree since it was found in the Fen peat of Southery seven years ago.

It is now hoped that it will be turned into a "stunning visual spectacle" to take pride of place in Ely Cathedral.

Despite setbacks - and no budget - the team managed to get a sawmill flown over from Canada and assembled in the field next to the tree.

Hamish Low, project leader, said: "Nothing could have prepared us for what this astonishing tree would reveal - 10 magnificent sequential boards unlike anything seen before."

A 5,000-year-old fossilised oak tree discovered near Ely in 2012 is set to be transformed into an iconic sculptured table. Scale of the table. Picture: PROJECT TEAMA 5,000-year-old fossilised oak tree discovered near Ely in 2012 is set to be transformed into an iconic sculptured table. Scale of the table. Picture: PROJECT TEAM

The massive 5,000-year-old boards were put on an articulated lorry and transported to The Building Crafts College in Stratford, East London.

Eighteen people had to lift each board into a specifically designed and constructed 14 metre drying kiln.

"Nine months later we had extracted a staggering 397 gallons of water from these 10 ancient boards and reduced their weight by 1.6 tons," Hamish said.

"They are breathtakingly beautiful and without doubt a national treasure.

A 5,000-year-old fossilised oak tree discovered near Ely in 2012 is set to be transformed into an iconic sculptured table. When the tree was first discovered in 2012. Picture: ARCHANTA 5,000-year-old fossilised oak tree discovered near Ely in 2012 is set to be transformed into an iconic sculptured table. When the tree was first discovered in 2012. Picture: ARCHANT

"Their like will never be seen again."

The team's vision for the table was for it to sit in Ely Cathedral's Lady Chapel.

The cathedral is on high ground surrounded by fields which, very occasionally, still yield buried ancient Black Oaks.

Hamish added: "We hope that by having an inaugural 18 month display at the cathedral we can raise awareness amongst local Fenland land owners of the need to preserve as much as we can for future generations."

Staff and students at the college in Stratford will begin the build on July 22 to August 16.

Visitors will be able to see the boards via a viewing gallery above the joinery workshop at the college.

There will be opportunities to film, photograph, meet the craftsmen and even touch the preserved boards.

Open workshop events will take place on August 7, August 8 and August 10.

If you would like to attend email thefenlandblackoakproject@gmail.com or visit www.thefenlandblackoakproject.co.uk for more information and to support the project.

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