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Heart shaped wood mystery at Oare
By Sarah Jones
BBC Wiltshire

Heart Wood, Oare, Wiltshire
Wiltshire's giant heart is not a crop circle and not, strictly speaking, man-made

In the run up to Valentine's Day… it seems that Wiltshire really does have a heart.

And it's a big heart.

Dominating Huish Hill, overlooking the tiny village of Oare, it's not only a third the size of a football pitch but so big it can only be really appreciated from space.

So what is this massive heart doing deep in the Wiltshire countryside? And is it, as Google Earth has claimed, a heart shaped crop-circle?

Wiltshire, as a county, boasts more then its fair share of landscape art. There's a whole stable of white chalk horses galloping across the hills, giant kiwi, massive World War I badges and of course crop circles.

Hawthorn
1,000 Hawthorn trees make up the heart wood

But in the small village of Oare, north of Pewsey, it's not a chalk or crop creation that dominates the landscape but a heart shaped wood that's not strictly speaking man-made.

Created by Lady Keswick, the owner of Oare House, the wood was planted over 10 years ago as a memorial to the death of her two brothers:

"We planted it in 1999," says Lady Keswick, "with two varieties of hawthorn - one with dark pink and one with pale pink flowers.

"But it takes a long time to be fully grown and even after 10 years it is not yet fully in bloom."

Heart turns red

With the help of the Oxford based landscape consultants, Lear Associates, 1,000 hawthorn trees were planted out on the hill overlooking the A345 to create the acre-sized heart wood.

But, it seems, getting your hawthorns to grow in a heart-shape can be the least of your worries:

"It needs more looking after than you might think," says Lady Keswick. "The local 'Bambis' come down from the hills and jump the fence quite easily and try and eat the new shoots. This can be devastating for the trees.

"And the winds are strong through the Vale of Pewsey. The young trees did not like this so we had to put up plastic sheets to stop wind damage."

Heart Wood, Oare, Wiltshire
When the wood matures, and flowers, the heart will appear red

The young trees also needed constant watering, throughout the summer months, and weeding.

But with the promise of 1,000 hawthorns flowering, well not quite in time for Valentine's Day, it will all be worth it when Wiltshire's heart turns red.

"It will take a few years more to grow and to bush out to its full height and full bloom," admits Lady Kewsick, "but then it will be spectacular when in bloom!"

But even flowerless, the heart wood at Oare is still pretty spectacular. Not only is it already showing up on various different satellite maps but has even made an appearance on a valentine's card.

But, according to Lady Keswick, you don't have to take to the air to appreciate it:

"You can see it best from the top of the hill," says Lady Kewsick, "but also from the road and from our house (just).

"But it is a great project and it is fun to do something different in and with the countryside... hopefully to beautify it!"




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