This is a 2022 update on the story of the Queen’s Oak at Hurley Lock.

In 2014, I was in the UK following the launch of my book on the Thames Path, held at Marlow Library. Everyone was so kind and generous, especially as I was an Aussie with a rather cheeky approach to English history. 😎

Marlow Mayor Suzanne Brown totally outshining me at the launch.

Next day I received  a  message from  an ex-neighbour at nearby Harleyford.  Jo wanted an extra copy of the book for a friend, so my partner Rob and I promised to drop one in.  We decided it would be a nice idea to park the car  in Hurley (Berks)  then  walk  along the  riverside and across the wooden footbridge to  the Harleyford Estate  (Bucks.)  

Taken just upriver from the Queen's Oak.
Harleyford Manor sits beside the Thames

At Hurley Lock Island we stopped to check on the Queen’s Oak. This has become a bit of a tradition for us over the years. It was still a sapling when we bought our holiday lodge on the estate back in 1996.


The history of the oak tree is explained in this extract from  my book;

‘Amid great excitement on October 18 1974, Queen Elizabeth arrived in Hurley by car, then took the footpath from the village to the lock, where she  boarded a steamer for a trip down to Runnymede. The Queen planted an oak tree on Hurley Lock Island to commemorate the journey, or as a plaque states more regally:  β€˜β€¦the occasion of her river progress.’   Oaks grow slowly, but forty  years on the tree has reached  a considerable size.’

By the way, the book is out of print now, so I’m not trying to flog it. 😍

Imagine how many trees Her Majesty planted during her long life. In the following photo she is aged ten, and planting a yew tree.

But I digress. The Hurley oak was looking fantastic. I swear its girth  had increased a few belt sizes since our  previous visit in 2011.  However, as we approached  we noticed  a raw gash on the near  side of the  trunk. It  was about 20cm square, a couple of  feet from the base.

The Queen's  Oak at Hurley Lock has been damaged.
Queen Elizabeth’s Hurley Oak. The damage was obvious even from a distance.


Oh my hat, we were  appalled! My first instinct was to blame vandals. Yes,… a  sad reflection of my jaded opinion of  modern society.  However, on  closer inspection  we realized the  deep gouges  were unlikely to have been caused by human hand.

Is there an escaped grizzly bear at Hurley?? Damage to the Queen's Oak.
Is there an escaped grizzly bear at Hurley??

It was definitely  claw marks we were looking at.  Could the culprit have been a  squirrel, or a  water rat?   Perhaps a  buck rabbit…..or, God forbid, a  rabid mole?  Surely  none of these creatures could  cause such damage, unless an individual had  somehow morphed into a monster of its species. Of course here are stories the world over of escaped panthers and pumas.  Admittedly, most of the sightings in the UK have been in Hampshire, including an alleged baring of the fangs incident at Basingstoke railway station! How scary if their range has increased to include Berkshire.  It made a warning sign on the nearby field scarcely worth worrying about.

Could a bull have butted the Queen's Oak?
Who cares about a  Hurley bull when there could be a wild panther about?

Hang on, could a bull have butted the tree? Hmm, I doubt it.

While Rob and I were puzzling over this next day, our friend Errol Fuller turned up. Now Errol is something of  an expert on natural history and he mentioned one animal we hadn’t  thought about….the badger! A little bit of research and we were sure we had our culprit.  Just look at those claws;

The claws of a culprit?
The claws of a culprit?


We don’t have conclusive proof, but I think it might be worth contacting the Palace.  It must verge on treason to willfully damage a royal tree.  Beware Mr Badger of Hurley, there could be a price  on your head.  Or you might even  lose your head!

The prime suspect in the damage to the Queen's Oak at Hurley.
The prime suspect (Wikipedia)

Jokes aside, I hope the oak has not been seriously harmed, and that  whatever creature  inflicted the damage stays away.  A few more attacks and the tree could be ring-barked.  Look at the one pictured below. In this case it was verified badger damage.

A badger has caused damage all around the trunk of this tree. Is this what happened to the Queen's Oak at Hurley?
A badger has caused damage all around the trunk of this tree. (Wikipedia)

UPDATE – I hope to return  in years to come to watch the Queen’s oak approach maturity; it would be sad if it hasn’t outlived Her Majesty. Perhaps I could ask someone to check.

On the Berkshire side of the river is a park for permanent holiday caravans. The owners planted another oak to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee.

Another Queen's Oak was planted by the Thames at Hurley.


An English oak for Canada, 1951;

Here is the Queen planting a gum tree on Australian soil in 2006.

Over a decade later (in the UK) and in goes yet another tree. I’m not at all surprised that Queen Elizabeth refused help to plant this Mulberry. What a trooper she was.


21 APRIL 1926 – 8 SEPTEMBER 2022



  1. Badgers are definitely on the increase. I’ve seen more dead ones on the roads this summer than in my entire life! I wonder if they need to scratch – like cats – but have ‘scratching territory’? If so, maybe they’re running out of trees? I think the Queen needs to get busy planting!

    • Yes, apparently they do have scratching trees Ann. We thought at first that some animal might have been looking for grubs but the rest of the trunk looks very smooth and healthy. I agree, Her Majesty should come and plant a spare!

  2. Serious response: Trees will usually survive unless a ring of bark is removed completely around the trunk, so hopefully this one will be OK and looks healthy enough to compete against virus etc.
    My son was awarded a Jubilee Oak last year which is now planted on his land in Sussex. It will be good to compare with our gorgeous Gaia
    (b.Aug 2012) as she too grows.
    Flippant response: There are public toilets on the island at Hurley, so I reckon the rower had just popped out for a comfort stop! Running water does the trick in hospitals, maybe running rivers have the same effect.

    • Pauline

      How lovely for your son re the Jubilee Oak Marcia. Of course he will never be able to sell the property! Ha ha, very amused about the running river and the rower.

  3. I was charmed by this blog. I need to subscribe, and more importantly, buy your books. I am going from here to to find them!

  4. Oh, I’ve never seen or heard of that! Wow πŸ™‚


    • Pauline

      Still wondering whether I should report the damage to the Queen!

  5. I recently received a gift of acorns from a friend who shall remain unnamed to protect her from the Tower.

    This plunder was gathered from under the oak planted by our beloved monarch.

    I was searching for the type of oak when I came across your story.

    This tree must be protected.


    • Pauline

      Oh, how interesting John. I hope you will plant the acorns somewhere hidden away… and carefully nurture them! They will be good back-ups in case the worst ever happens to the Queen’s oak.

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.