In early times, much of western Europe was covered with dense oak forests.
Many old oak trees took on characteristics that were often the origins of myths and folklore and many splendid specimens were given anthropomorphic names in recognition of famous people or events.
Little wonder that early European arrivals to West Gippsland were keen to continue their long-held connections to this iconic tree species. In the streets and parks of Drouin to this day we reap the benefits of plantings of some magnificent oaks by early settlers to the district.
Oak Street in Drouin is named in honour of the old oak trees along the south west side of Oak Street Kindergarten. The trees are thought to have been planted early in the 1900s to provide shelter for the livestock in the sale yards which were located in this triangle of land. In the 1936 aerial photographs of Drouin these oaks look like they could have been about 20+ years old. These saleyards were the central yards for farmers around the district and livestock were walked into town by farmers from places like Drouin West. The close proximity to the train station meant that livestock could be freighted easily by rail.
Oak Street Kinder was established in 1964. In Keith Pretty’s book, Buln Buln to Baw Baw, he says: “This Kindergarten has an almost unique ‘oldworld’ setting with its beautiful old oak trees which provide valuable learning experiences for the children. They learn from the acorns, the birds and the animals (possums) which are there because of the trees”.
Many children, now adults, who attended the Kindergarten remember taking home pockets full of acorns! At least one family even has an oak tree grown from one of these acorns and it is most likely that the oak tree on the southeast side of the railway bridge could also be an offspring!
Today there are four remaining English oaks, Quercus robur, three in the Kindergarten grounds and one just to the west of the kinder boundary. They are 18-20m high with 20m wide canopies, providing wonderful shade cover for preschool children, the birds and the cars parked in the street in summer, and more than ample mulch for the kinder and JC Wells park in autumn. They are truly splendid specimens.
Perhaps in the future, some of Drouin’s magnificent oaks will be ‘honoured’ in the same way many of the European ancient trees are today.
(Thanks to Judy for this post)
PS: Whilst the Pedunculate Oak is not considered highly as a habitat tree, some Little Ravens, (I think), and some Pied Currawongs were busy feeding on lichen on the branches in the canopy.