Up until tonight, I was a big fan of this story, which appears in full several places on the Internet. It illustrates the benefits of long-term thinking.
New College, at Oxford, has a magnificant timber roof in its hall. However, it was found to be infested with beetles and needed to be replaced. When it came to try to find a source for oak to replace the timbers it turned out that the college owned some nearby forests that had oak trees. These trees were planted back 500 years before when the college hall was built, in anticipation of this very need.
Unfortunately, in my browsing of the Internet, I found that the whole thing is a fable. According to a post from that scurge of all urban legends, Snopes, there is no evidence for the college actually making 500 year long plans, and it was simply standard practice to grow oak trees in forests. It’s sad, because it is a good story.
Although, I must admit that there’s also no evidence that the Snopes references are valid either, as its source is a URL that no longer works.