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Oak Apple Day, 29 May

Oak Apple Day, 29 May, is alleged to commemorate the escape from the Roundheads of the future Charles II by hiding up an oak tree at Boscobel. The oak there now is a much younger version, itself badly damaged by a storm about ten years ago. Whatever, the ‘Boscobel Oak’ is honoured by hundreds of ‘Royal Oak’ pubs and a surprising number of customs which take place on (or near) that day though almost none of these have anything whatsoever to do with Charles II. On the other hand they do have things to do with trees, suggesting that the festival is much older. Castleton Garland must be related to Jack-in-the Green, Oak Apple Day in Great Wishford confirms the rights of villagers to gather ‘snappinge wood boughes and stickes’ in nearby Grovely Wood, the forest workers of the Heart of Oak Friendly Society hold their annual Club Walk in Fownhope and on the alternatively named ‘Arbor Day’ in Aston-on-Clun, they dress their black poplar tree with flags. On the other hand Founders Day at The Royal Hospital, Chelsea, does have something to do with Charles II since he was their founder in 1682 and the ‘Chelsea Pensioners’ all wear sprigs of oak on their red coats on the parade in his honour.