Dear Readers, the Tree of the Year competition has been held annually by the Woodland Trust since 2016, and this year’s winner is this weathered hawthonr, growing all alone on a beach in Kippford, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. There can be little doubt about the direction of the prevailing wind here! The poor tree has had cars bashing into it, generations of children climbing it, and the nominator, Drew Patterson, has photos of his grandmother and grandfather standing in front of it. It’s a fine example of a tree with lots of character, and this is not unusual for this competition, as we shall see.
The Woodland Trust collects nominations from the four countries of the UK, and a shortlist is compiled by a panel of independent experts. I especially like that the winning tree ‘wins’ a cheque for £1000, which can be spent on anything from remedial works to a special plaque explaining the tree’s importance. The winning tree is also entered into the European Tree of the Year competition.
Here are a few of the previous winners. In 2020 we had ‘The Survivor Tree’, a rowan which used to be the only tree in a completely deforested area, the Carrifran Valley in the Scottish Borders. Since the photo was taken over 700,000 trees have been planted, many by volunteers, in an attempt to restore and rewild the forest.
In 2019 the award went to a somewhat statelier tree, the Allerton Oak in Calderstones Park, Liverpool. It’s thought to be over a thousand years old, and to have been the setting for a medieval hundred court ( a ‘hundred’ was part of a shire, an administrative division of the country). It was also said to have been damaged in a gunpowder explosion in 1684!
In 2018 the prize went to Nellie’s tree – actually a group of three beech trees that were grafted together in the shape of a letter ‘N’ by a man who wanted to impress Nellie, his girlfriend, in about 1920. The trees, which can be found near to Aberford, West Yorkshire, have since become a popular site for marriage proposals,
In 2017 the winner was the Gilwell Oak, which is in the grounds of the Scout Association in Gilwell Park, Essex. It’s said to be one of the many, many hiding places of Dick Turpin, a notorious highwayman who has hidden in the branches of at least 50% of the trees in Southern England, and at least 95% of the basements of London pubs. It is a truly magnificent English Oak (Quercus robur) and is thought to be 450 – 550 years old. For a long time, Scouts who had completed their training were given acorns carved from fallen branches of the Gilwell Oak as a token of their success.
And finally, in 2016 the winner was the Brimmon Oak, an English Oak tree from Newton, Powys, Wales. It grows in a field that has been farmed by the same family since 1600, but in 2015 it was scheduled to be felled as part of the construction of the Newton Bypass. The farmer organised a petition to save the tree, which garnered 5000 signatures and was presented to the Welsh Assembly. As a result, the tree was saved, and went on to come second in the European Tree of the Year, the best placing so far for any UK tree.
And so there have been a wide variety of trees in the Tree of the Year award – some threatened, some locally famous, some just well-loved. As an exercise in raising awareness of the trees that surround us it seems to be a great idea. Next year I shall post a link so that we can all vote!