We often go to Ely for shopping and related tasks, but this week we were meeting friends, visiting from Harold Wood on the Essex/London border, for lunch. This provided another opportunity to spend time in the wonder that is Ely Cathedral. On this occasion we saw the black bog oak table that was built especially for the Queen's Jubilee this year. It stretches for a full 13 meters in length.
Bog oaks are a familiar phenomenon to those who live in or know the Fens. You can sometimes see them placed on field edges as you drive by arable fields. Black bog oaks are essentially fossilised trees that have been preserved in the acid, waterlogged marshes from 5000 years or more ago. As the Fens have been drained, resulting in the peat shrinking, bog oaks come to the surface. They have been a common source of fire wood for local inhabitants. For arable farmers they can be problematic and have to be dug out, once by hand, now using tractors. Sometimes dynamite has been used to blow them up to help with the removal of the very largest bog oaks.
In 2012, at Wissington Fen, South West Norfolk, between Ely and Downham Market, a bog oak was found which was a spectacular 13.2 meters in length. Not only that, the trunk was more or less uniform in diameter and also straight. Perfect for a table top 13 meters long.
This black bog oak was milled into planks, five of which were used to make the Jubilee Table. The bog oak wood is about twice the age of Stone Henge. It is a very impressive sight in Ely Cathedral. There can't be many buildings that would be able to accommodate it.