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In search of Northern Ireland’s finest trees

We’re asking tree lovers to stump up nominations for Northern Ireland’s Tree of the Year 2018. The competition is open to any tree that is living and loved, but we’re especially after one with a story. We want to hear the memories, myths or legends surrounding your favourite tree. And you can enter it until 9am on 6 August.

A winner will be selected from each of the UK's four nations and will receive an award of up to £1,000. This could be used for pruning or professional advice. It could even support a community event in celebration of the tree.

Here’s a peek at last year’s three favourites, selected by the public vote.

The Erskine House Tree – our 2017 winner

Last year’s competition saw Belfast’s Erskine House Tree, an oriental plane tree of ancient Greek descent, capture hearts and minds to take the Northern Ireland crown. This much-loved urban icon is a descendent of the famous Plane Tree of Kos, under whose shade Hippocrates, the father of medicine, taught in 500 BC.

A celebration event was held for The Erskine House Tree (Photo: Parkway Photography)
A celebration event was held for The Erskine House Tree (Photo: Parkway Photography)

It stands tall between Belfast City Hospital and Queen’s University Belfast, and took a well-earned bow because of its remarkable story. In the 1960s, a young Greek doctor, Dimitrios Oreopoulos, undertook kidney research at Queen’s University and Belfast City Hospital, later gaining worldwide fame for developing a form of kidney dialysis. In appreciation of his time here, Dimitrios presented seeds from the Plane Tree of Kos for planting in the hospital grounds. Only one – the Erskine House Tree – flourished and survived. Today it’s an oasis of calm and a symbol of hope for patients, staff and students.

Dimitrios’ son, Dr George Oreopoulos, recently visited the tree and said the gifting of the seed was ‘a symbolic gesture of thanks from a young Greek doctor who was grateful for an opportunity.'

The Erskine House Tree was nominated by Professor Gerry Gormley and Professor Peter Maxwell from Queen’s University, and Dr James Douglas from Belfast City Hospital. The trio are now using their £1,000 award to landscape the grounds around the winning specimen. And in keeping with Dimitrios’ legacy, they’re involving others. Children who live with renal disease and their families were recently invited to a celebration event. They made their mark by putting in plants and shrubs, and listened to the story of this remarkable tree.

Bangor’s weeping ash has something to smile about

The Erskine House Tree had five amazing challengers. A magnificent weeping ash, almost two centuries old, graces the grounds of Bangor First Presbyterian Church in Main Street. It claimed the position of runner-up and an award of £500. Thanks to the award, two wooden benches – crafted from old mahogany pews and complete with cast iron ends – now take pride of place on each side of the tree. The nomination and subsequent handiwork was led by our volunteer Peter Lyons.

Bangor’s magnificent weeping ash is almost two hundred years old (Photo: Michael Cooper Photography)
Bangor’s magnificent weeping ash is almost two hundred years old (Photo: Michael Cooper Photography)

The Armada Tree at Cairncastle, just outside Larne

Finally, we’ve simply got to mention one of our truly unforgettable 2017 contenders. The story goes that when the Spanish Armada was passing these shores in the 1500s, a sailor was washed up at Ballygally. Some locals took the body and duly buried it in the graveyard of St Patrick’s Church. After some time, a sapling emerged from this unmarked grave and, despite the coastal winds, thrived. It’s believed that today’s fabulous ancient tree, twisted and gnarled, grew from one of the chestnut seeds that the sailor had in his pocket when he was buried.

The Armada Tree has a fascinating story (Photo: Michael Cooper Photography)
The Armada Tree has a fascinating story (Photo: Michael Cooper Photography)

More trees please!

We’re on the lookout for our 2018 champion and we’re ready and waiting to hear from you. Please share your favourite tree – and its story – and help give Northern Ireland’s trees the attention they deserve. But hurry - nominations close on 6 August!

Let's celebrate our special trees

Make your Tree of the Year nomination