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Tree of the Year – a lasting legacy

As nominations are now open for the 2018 Tree of the Year competition, we caught up with some previous entrants to see what lasting impact the competition has had. These are some of the Scottish entrants I know best, but they are good representatives of the trees entered across England, Wales and Northern Ireland too.

The suffragette oak

The winner of Scotland’s Tree of the Year in 2015 was Glasgow’s Suffragette Oak, nominated by Glasgow Women’s Library. The tree was planted in Kelvingrove Park by suffrage organisations in 1918 to commemorate the first women being granted the right to vote in February that year.

In October last year, the tree was damaged during Storm Ophelia and Glasgow City Council had to reduce its height and canopy. The cut offs were gifted to Glasgow Women's Library who are currently having the wood seasoned with a view to producing souvenir items to sell. I can’t wait to find out what they come up with!

On seeing the drastic but necessary changes to the tree, a horrified passer-by contacted us, the Women’s Library and the council, alarmed at its condition. We were able to explain that this was not wanton destruction but the necessary follow-up to the storm damage, but it was plain that the oak's status as a past Tree of the Year had been a big factor in motivating the passer-by to rush to its defence.

Glasgow Women’s Library staff dressed as suffragettes with their tree (Photo: Lenny Warren/WTML)
Glasgow Women’s Library staff dressed as suffragettes with their tree (Photo: Lenny Warren/WTML)

Celebrate our special trees

Make your Tree of the Year nomination

The invisible giant

In 2016’s competition, one of the runners-up was the Craigends yew in Renfrewshire. The yew was nominated by ancient tree hunter, Judy Dowling and also had a local champion in nearby resident, Janet Mason.

Janet was not concerned about winning, only raising the profile of the tree in the local area. For one thing it was difficult for people to find. For another it was not terribly well respected by those who did find it, with scorch wounds from fires set by vandals over the years.

When the tree was named as a finalist, a local paper sent out a photographer and some local children were recruited to give it a hug for good luck in the competition. The story and picture duly appeared – but unfortunately they focused on a very impressive cedar tree growing just yards from the yew. Everyone had assumed the more visible cedar must be the candidate!

This was despite the Craigends yew measuring 100m round the crown and 8.29m around the main trunk. The tree is in its second layering with branches hitting the ground and taking root. It is extraordinary to think that such a massive tree should be so hard to find, even for local people.

Thanks to taking part in Tree of the Year, that has all changed. Its location is now signposted from the main road, and an interpretive board will be installed beside the tree thanks to a Care Award from players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Seeing this investment, the local community council also then paid to remove a sycamore that was growing up within the yew’s layers.

Janet is delighted!

Judy Dowling (left) and Janet Mason (right) under the Craigends yew (Photo: Niall Benvie)
Judy Dowling (left) and Janet Mason (right) under the Craigends yew (Photo: Niall Benvie)

The tree preparing for retirement

The winner of Scotland’s Tree of the Year in 2016 was the Ding Dong Tree at Prestonpans Primary School. This copper beech is critical to a game played by pupils at the school – the Ding Dong game. However, it’s not in an ideal spot for a lengthy life, surrounded as it is by hard playground concrete. The attention it received thanks to the competition caused some thought on its future and another copper beech has been planted in a grassy part of the playground nearby. Ding Dong II will be ready to take over game duties when the original Ding Dong Tree retires. Local MP Martin Whitfield said the competition had helped put the whole of Prestonpans in the spotlight.

The Ding Dong copper beech tree (Photo: Niall Benvie)
The Ding Dong copper beech tree (Photo: Niall Benvie)

The tree sent from the trenches

David McCabe’s spruce in Perthshire was a finalist in 2017. As a seedling, this huge specimen was pulled from the mud of the Western Front during the First World War and sent home by a young lieutenant who later died from his wounds. A £500 Care Award has funded the trimming of its lower branches and the installation of a bench. As commemorations approach for the centenary of the war’s end, the spruced up spruce will be ready to serve as a poignant place of reflection.

Nominate your tree

By nominating a tree, there really is nothing to lose and much to gain. Past finalists have benefited from higher profiles that see them instantly under the gaze of thousands of eagle-eyed local protectors. Work has been enabled to improve the condition of some trees. In every case a community has come together in common cause, stimulating pride and a sense of shared heritage.

We will be naming 2018 Trees of the Year in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We need your nominations to get the ball rolling.

Nominations are open to any living tree in the UK with a story to tell. Any individual, group or organisation can nominate a tree until 9am on 6 August. It's free to enter and could not be easier. Give it a go!

Celebrate our special trees

Make your Tree of the Year nomination