While on a Hanover Conservancy led wildflower and blossoms walk on Mother’s Day, I couldn’t help notice and photograph these gentle giants. Our group was introduced to the impressive Grafton County Champion Northern Red Oak. To learn more about what I was seeing, I wrote to Adair Mulligan who is the Executive Director of the Hanover Conservancy. I learned from Adair that the Champion Oak was crowned in 2014 when it was measured by a Big Tree Steward who recorded that it was 110 feet tall, 196 inches in circumference, and had a crown spread of 80 feet. She said that several of the large trees on Balch Hill may date from the time of Hanover’s settlement over 250 years ago.
Adair told me about another tree there on Balch Hill that would have been the county champion but its huge lower limb broke off the mighty oak. It was affectionately known as “the Venus de Milo." It has since completely fallen down. Now it serves as refuge and food for animals, birds, and insect so continues to contribute to the land.
The NH Big Tree Program, a part of UNH Cooperative Extension, is a network of volunteers throughout the state who hunt for and measure large trees. Anyone can log onto their website and recommend a tree. The trees are checked every 10 years to make sure they’re still standing and to re-measure them. If you’re looking for a new hobby or want to add some excitement to your hikes, search for giant trees, and don’t forget your measuring tape.