Tree of the Year shortlists revealed

The finalists in the annual Tree of the Year competition have been unveiled - and include several from UK public parks and gardens.

The Umbrella Tree at Levens Hall. Image: Levens Hall
The Umbrella Tree at Levens Hall. Image: Levens Hall

King John’s Oak, which has grown in Shute Park, Devon, for more than 800 years, the precicely-pruned Umbrella Tree in Levens Hall, Cumbria, The Holm Oak in Kilbroney Park, Rostrevor, County Down, the Bodnant Sweet Chestnut in Bodnant Gardens, Conwy, the 500-year-old Belvoir Oak, Belvoir Park Forest, Belfast, and the Castle Oak, at 800 to 850 years old one of the oldest trees in Dinefwr Park, Carmarthenshire are all well-loved trees which enhance the UK’s parks and gardens. 

The list also even a Nepalese native, the first Morinda Spruce to be grown in the UK, at Hopetoun near Edinburgh, the seed of which was collected in the Himalayas by Scottish botanist Dr George Govan in 1818 and grown by the then Earl of Hopetoun's head gardener James Smith by grafting seedlings onto Norway Spruce roots.

The graft scar is still visible nearly 200 years later.The 28 shortlisted trees across the UK, 10 in England and six each in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, also nclude the original Bramley apple tree, now dying, a tree whose trunk has swallowed up a bicycle, an oak thought to be the last survivor of the ancient medieval oakwood mentioned in Macbeth and two trees so popular with residents they successfully petitioned the authorities to move roads to avoid them.

Judges whittled down nearly 200 public nominations to create shortlists based on the nominees’ story, how they would make use of a care grant prize and visual appeal of the tree. The Trust is now inviting the public to vote for their favourite tree in each region before October 10, with the winners going forward to the European Tree of the Year competition in early 2017.

The winning tree in each country will benefit from a "Tree LC" care grant of £1,000, with any tree reaching over 1,000 votes receiving a grant of £500. The grant can be used to arrange a health check from an arboriculturalist, provide interpretation or educational materials or hold a celebratory event in honour of the tree.

The European Tree of the Year contest, run by the Environmental Partnership Association since 2011, looks for the best loved trees from countries across Europe. The 2016 winner, receiving 72,000 of the nearly 230,000 votes cast was the ‘The Oldest Tree of Bátászék’ in Hungary. The UK’s Major Oak, the highest placed tree in the 2015 contest, finished in sixth place in the European contest, with the trust keen to improve our performance. 

The UK is home to one of the largest populations of ancient and veteran trees in Europe and over 9,000 people have signed up to the Trust’s V.I Trees campaign to ensure all Trees of National Special Interest have better long term protection from the threats posed by climate change, development, pests and diseases.

Woodland Trust chief executive Beccy Speight said: "These trees have stood for hundreds, if not thousands of years and each will have a special place in peoples’ lives. By celebrating them and reminding people of their value we hope to support and influence those who can ensure they continue to thrive for future generations."

Threatened Sheffield elm among Tree of the Year candidates

A Sheffield resident and campaigner has succeeded in having a threatened street tree included in the candidates for England's Tree of the Year competition.

Sheffield resident and Save Nether Edge Trees campaigner Paul Selby has said that the tree, on the city's Chelsea Road, not only is the tree rare in itself following the ravages of Dutch elm disease, but it is also home to the endangered white letter hairstreak butterfly.

In January, Selby organised a protest at the tree which drew around 100 residents after it emerged the it was among many street trees earmarked for felling as part of the city council's controversial Streets Ahead programme with infrastructure partner Amey.

Then in July he hired an open-top bus that was parked by the tree to enable the public to see the butterfly first-hand.

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