One of the world’s largest and oldest oak trees has returned to Chirk with the planting of a sapling.

The Pontfadog Oak stood during Owain Gwynedd’s defeat of the English and featured in the Guinness Book of Records as the ‘widest tree in Great Britain’ before it fell in a storm in 2013.

It stood at Cilcochwyn Farm, near Chirk, Wrexham, and was cared for by generations of the Morris/Williams family.

Now, a sapling from the fallen tree has been planted at Chirk Castle, with three generations of the family coming to see it.

The original tree was propagated by the Crown Estate which resulted in a tree being planted in Windsor, and just five saplings were ever grafted.

Three of the saplings were gifted to National Trust Cymru, with one planted at Erddig by His Majesty the King.

The sapling at Chirk Castle is the closest to the original site of the oak, just two miles away, and the family has said that this will be the one they will visit most often.

The Leader: The sapling before it was planted The sapling before it was planted (Image: Newsquest-Leader)

Chris Morris of Morris/Williams family, Cilcochwyn Farm, said: “The family are delighted that the heritage of the Pontfadog Oak is being continued through this grafted sapling and pleased that one of the saplings is being planted here at Chirk Castle, close enough for us to be able to visit regularly and watch it grow.”

Chris also said that it was like “visiting a grave” during the planting, having mourned the loss of the tree that held so many memories for the family.

The Leader: Pontfadog oak when it fell in a storm in 2013Pontfadog oak when it fell in a storm in 2013 (Image: unknown)

The oak was estimated to be between 1,200 and 1,700 years old when it fell, and likely started its life as an acorn between AD 367 and AD 814.

It witnessed the end of the Roman rule in Britain and Owain Gwynedd defeating the English at the Battle of Crogen in 1165, just a few hundred meters from the oak.

In 1972 it was featured in the Guinness Book of Records as the ‘widest tree in Great Britain’ with a girth of 40ft and 2inch, and height of 53ft.

The Leader: A newspaper clipping from the Leader in 1978A newspaper clipping from the Leader in 1978 (Image: Leader)

Later in 1996, Michael Lear, a Botanical Consultant stated in a letter to Jo Williams that he could not find a record of an oak tree in the world that had a greater girth than the Pontfadog.

Jo Williams of Cilcochwyn Farm has curated the history of the oak for over 70 years, including newspaper cuttings and official documentation dating back to 1971, as well as a timeline of events leading back to 1165.

Jo said: “For someone else it might be just a tree but it meant more than that for us. We played hide and seek in there, you could put in a table and six chairs and have dinner in it. So many people going back years had carved their initials in it.

“I’ve known it all my life and have photographs of when I was a little toddler with my mum standing in front of it to pictures of me on my wedding day stood with family and friends.”

Keith Griffith, lead ranger at Chirk Castle, National Trust Cymru said: “It’s a privilege to plant the Pontfadog sapling at Chirk Castle, its DNA is routed in history of the Ceiriog Valley, having served nature, animals and people here for over a millennia.

The Leader: Keith Griffith planting helping to plant the sapling Keith Griffith planting helping to plant the sapling (Image: Newsquest-Leader)

“It’s an honour to plant the sapling alongside 11 members of the Morris and Williams family, all of whom have a deep connection to the oak and have cared for it like a member of the family.

We hope the sapling will grow to become an ancient tree of the future, and in 200 years or so, people may be sitting in the shade of the tree at Chirk Castle.”


First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford, who planted one of the saplings at Erddig in December with His Majesty the King in memoriam to honour Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II said: “These special saplings have an incredible history as they were grafted from a grand and ancient oak – the Pontfadog Oak.

“It is fitting that this sapling will be planted at Chirk, close to where the original tree stood for more than 1,000 years.

“I hope that it will grow strong and healthy and develop into another mighty and iconic oak, which will stand for centuries to come at Chirk Castle.”