Since Ian Jenkins started as a support worker at the Martin Jackaman Centre, a social care centre for adults with disabilities in Aspley, Nottingham, he has been enraptured by the 30-metre (100ft)-high oak tree that overlooks it. “It definitely stands out,” he says. “It’s so tall and striking that it literally overshadows the centre.”
However, not everyone who works at the Martin Jackaman feels quite so positive. “A branch fell off and hit a member of staff last year,” Jenkins says. “She wasn’t badly hurt, but she wanted to have the tree cut down. We said: ‘It’s over 200 years old – there’s no way you can do that!'”
For Jenkins, 51, the tree is a source of enormous pride. “It helps you feel part of something bigger than yourself and serves as a reminder that the community will remain long after we’re gone.”
It is also a link to the past. “In winter, when all the leaves have fallen off, it can look sinister, which has contributed to the spread of a dark rumour,” says Jenkins. It is said that public hangings used to take place on the site in the first half of the 19th century. At the time, a litany of crimes such as forgery, arson and highway robbery were punishable by death. “When we moved here we heard that the oak had been used as a ‘hanging tree’. The centre has only been here since 2013, so no one really knows how the rumour started.”
True or not, Jenkins prefers to reflect on the oak’s joyous recent history. “When I think of the tree, I’m taken back to the day in 2012 when we held our own ‘Olympics’ in conjunction with three other day centres to coincide with the London Games. There were about 200 participants in events including foam javelin, boccia, running, wheelchair racing, archery, shot put and hoopla – and all of it took place in the shade of that wonderful oak tree.”
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