The trees of the New Forest are an important part of this landscape. One such place is the site of an old oak tree which stands at the centre of New Forest lore, marked on the OS map as the ‘Naked Man’ (but often referred to by local people as the Wilverley Oak).
As folk history would have it, as seen from the eastern side the battered old tree once resembled a naked man and this is how it got its name; described in 1924 by the historian Heywood Sumner as ‘a trunk with two arms…its spine wood even now repels a knife.’ However, other lore describes how the tree was used for hanging highway men, a gallow tree (in other parts of the British Isles, a ‘grief tree’) and that the name developed from the sight of stripped criminals swaying from its boughs.
The original tree has all but gone, having been struck by lightning several times and reduced to a stump. However, another oak tree was planted at the site some 15 years ago and this continues to thrive, protected by traditionally cut New Forest cleft-chestnut rails.
The Naked Man has been important to the resurgence of the esoteric in Britain with several influential individuals using the site since at least the 1930’s. Most famously, the site is a possible location for the ‘Operation Cone of Power’, a ritual carried out by the New Forest Coven in 1940 to stop the Germans from crossing the sea.
– Vikki Bramshaw, author of the book ‘New Forest Folklore, Traditions & Charms’
What3Words Address: ///clipboard.canoe.darker