The Angel Oak - the edge of life on Peckham Rye

Summer 2013

The Angel Oak was planted on Peckham Rye, on Sunday September 2011 by Linda Foster of the libraries of Peckham. Read a report from Guardian Books.

Following its removal from the eroding edges of England and replanting near the site of Blake's first Angel Oak, the tree was suffering from stress. Despite being removed from a location that was certain to collapse into the sea, it was still inhabiting the outlands at the edge of possibility.




Over the winter of 2011/2012 concerned observers feared the tree had not survived. In spring it did produce new buds, but these did not come into flower.







The tree appeared to be exhausted.






But its roots were helped by the residual, 'lost' river Ravensbourne, which passes nearby.

And it was helped also by local residents who occasionally watered the tree.

And by the roots that it carried with it from the edge of England, still covered in the clay they grew in.







New growth has emerged from the base of the tree





The tree was pruned of dead wood and the sapling growth protected.


The threshold between new growth and exhaustion is a real place, even though it cannot be mapped with compass and rule.

It is a boundary Blake knew well.





"I have been very near the Gates of Death & have returned very weak & an Old Man feeble & tottering, but not in Spirit & Life, not in The Real Man The Imagination which Liveth for Ever. In that I am stronger & stronger as this Foolish Body decays."

William Blake

Letter to George Cumberland, April 12, 1827.