This is one of my favourite trees on the northern slope of Ranmore Common near Dorking in Surrey. Whenever I’m cycling past it I always stop and spend a few moments admiring it. It is the sort of tree that in ancient times would have had pagans and other mystics worshiping it for its spiritual or magical qualities. It is a strange, quirky beech tree that should have died years ago, but is clinging on to life. It really does battle against all the odds and whatever nature has thrown at it.
It is host to the most impressive display of the tinder fungus (Fomes fomentarius) I’ve ever seen. There must be about 20 individual fruiting bodies running the whole way up the trunk. The top of the trunk has snapped off completely yet it keeps on sending out fresh shoots each year. The gnarled, mutated branches further down the trunk give the tree an unusual look. Many of the fused branches have circled around the trunk and grafted together. This tree has so much character not just physically but in spirit too. It is a fighter and refuses to give up the ghost.
I have no idea why there is so much tinder fungus up its trunk. None of the other beech trees on Ranmore common – alive or dead are host to these fruiting bodies. The fungus is named tinder fungus because strips of it can be dried out and used to create fires. It generally appears on birch trees in the north of England, and beech trees further south.