Skip Navigation

2018’s Tree of the Year winners revealed

A beech tree created to woo a sweetheart 100 years ago, which is still a meeting place for lovers today and a popular place to pop the question, has been crowned England’s Tree of the Year.

The public voted overwhelmingly to crown Nellie’s Tree in Aberford, Leeds, its 2018 winner. The tree was grafted from three saplings to form an N by Vic Stead who would make a daily walk to see his girlfriend Nellie. They would later marry.

The winning trees for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland were also revealed live on the BBC’s The One Show on Wednesday evening (17 October).

Northern Ireland: The Giant Sequoia, Castlewellan Forest Park, County Down

England: Nellie’s Tree, Aberford, Leeds

Scotland: Netty’s Tree, Eriskay, Outer Hebrides

Wales: Pwllpriddog Oak, Rhandirmwyn, Carmarthenshire

Now in its fifth year, the Woodland Trust’s Tree of the Year contest aims to showcase the UK’s best trees to help drive up interest in their value and protection. The charity is now asking the public to whittle the four national winners down to ONE to represent the UK in February’s European Tree of the Year competition. 

England's winner, Nellie's Tree (Photo: Rob Grange )
England's winner, Nellie's Tree (Photo: Rob Grange )

Kaye Brennan, lead campaigner for the Woodland Trust, said Nellie’s Tree was a worthy winner:

“There was a lot of love for this northern gem. Its popularity is rooted in a tale of romance and has really captured the public’s interest to poll the most votes. The UK’s trees could do with a bit more love. Since last year’s contest more trees have come down needlessly in our towns and cities and opportunities to save important trees from infrastructure plans such as HS2 have been denied.

“Now let’s see how we can fare in Europe! Help us select the tree to take forward to the European Tree of the Year awards so we can join the chorus in Europe to demand better recognition for the important role of trees." 

The competition is supported by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery which awards a £1,000 care grant to the winning trees. 

Sanjay Singh, senior programmes manager with People’s Postcode Lottery, said:

“The competition has turned up some fascinating trees with terrific stories. I am delighted that players of People’s Postcode Lottery have supported this celebration of the nation’s best loved trees.”

On announcing the four national winners on 17 October, The One Show opened voting for the public to decide which of the four trees should represent the UK in the European contest, which is run by the Environmental Partnership Association.

Profiles of 2018’s Tree of the Year winners:

England: Nellie’s Tree, Aberford, Leeds

Nearly 100 years ago, Vic Stead would walk from his home in Garforth near Leeds, along the old colliery railway, to visit Nellie, the young lady he was courting who lived in the nearby village of Aberford. One day, he came across three beech saplings on his route, and grafted one sapling between the other two to form the letter N in an attempt to woo his sweetheart. It worked. Vic and Nellie would go on to marry and have a family, and although they are both gone now, Nellie’s tree, also known as the Love Tree by locals, still remains. It is still popular with lovers today and is the site of proposals. The couple had children and grandchildren who chose to share their story. It was Vic and Nellie’s grandson Chris Lund who nominated the tree.

Scotland: Netty’s Tree, Eriskay, Outer Hebrides

Planted over 100 years ago by the poet, priest and land rights activist, Father Allan McDonald, this spruce was until a few years ago the only tree on the windswept island of Eriskay. Netty MacDonald lived on the nearby croft and encouraged all the island’s children to play on the tree as their cries and laughter reminded her of her own family who had grown up and moved away to work.

Netty died some years ago but her daughter Anne is back on the croft and continues the tradition.

Northern Ireland: The Multi-stemmed Giant Sequoia, Castlewellan Forest Park, County Down

The striking giant redwood – also known as giant sequoia – stands within the walled garden at Castlewellan Forest Park.  With an awe-inspiring 19 trunks, it’s a firm favourite with young climbers, who are suitably amazed when parents point out that the multiple trunks are in fact one incredible tree. The tree was grown from one of the original seeds first brought back to England, from California, in 1853 by the renowned collector William Lobb. He dashed to the Sierra Nevada in 1852 when he first heard of these monster trees anticipating correctly that the species, renowned for being the world’s largest tree, would be hugely popular among Victorian collectors.

Pwllpriddog Oak, Rhandirmwyn, Carmarthenshire

Standing in a hedgerow just outside the quiet village of Rhandirmwyn in Carmarthenshire, this tree is a giant, with a girth of some 8.4 metres. Some have estimated it to be 600-700 years old, while local historians believe it was planted to commemorate the Battle of Bosworth. It is reputed to have been the hiding place of a king; the local pub is known as the Royal Oak, after all. The tree is hollow, and there are a number of YouTube clips of bands and choirs singing inside it. Many years ago it is understood to be a meeting place for local lovers. The farm used it as shelter for the pigs and now the ducks from the current owner roost and hatch in the branches.

-Ends-

Notes to editors
For further information contact the Woodland Trust press office on 01476 581121 or email nataliestephenson@woodlandtrust.org.uk or media@woodlandtrust.org.uk

The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife.

The Trust has three key aims: i) protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable, ii) restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life, iii) plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.

Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering over 22,500 hectares. Access to its woods is free.

The Tree of the Year competition is run in support of the Charter for Trees, Woods and People – an initiative that sets out 10 tree principles to embed in our society for a future where people and trees are stronger together. Find out more and voice your support at treecharter.uk

The public vote results in full:

England 

1st  Nellie's Tree, Leeds 2351 
 2nd  Bruce Castle Oak, Tottenham 1589 
3rd   Wyndham’s Oak, Silton, Dorset 1001 
4th   Quarr Abbey Oak, Isle of Wight 891 
5th   Old Electric Oak, Wickwar, Gloucs 884 
6th   Preston Twin, Brighton 831 
7th Verdun Horse Chestnut, St Albans 685
8th Drunkard Rowan, Caldbeck, Cumbria 640
9th  Arbor Tree, Aston on Clun, Shropshire 378
10th John Keat's Mulberry, Hampstead 236

 Total: 9486

Scotland 

1st   Netty's Tree, Eriskay 1050
2nd   Filo Pastry Tree at Logan Botanic Gardens near Stranraer 857 
3rd   Flodden Tree at The Hirsel Estate 741 
4th   Camperdown Elm, Dundee 332 
5th   Malloch’s Oak at Strathallan 241 
6th   Napoleon’s Tree at Ecclefechan 143 

 Total: 3364

Northern Ireland

1st  The Giant Sequoia: Castlewellan Forest Park, Castlewellan 912
2nd  The Giant’s Grave Thorn: Hawthorn at Slaughtaverty, near Garvagh       340
3rd  Ballymenoch Oak: Turkey oak at Ballymenoch Park, Holywood 281
4th  The Bishop’s Tree: Sweet chestnut, Lumen Christi College, Derry/Londonderry  254
5th  Sandy Row Fairy Thorn: Hawthorn at Sandy Row, south Belfast 229
6th  Hezlett House Spanish Chestnut: Sweet chestnut, Hezlett House, Castlerock    115

 Total: 2131

Wales

1st  Pwllpriddog Oak, Rhandirmwyn, Carmarthenshire 590
2nd  Ys Ysbyty Ifan Yews, Ysbyty Ifan, Conwy 482
3rd  The Defynnog Yew, Defynnog, Powys 270
4th  Yew tunnel, Aberglasney Gardens, Carmarthenshire 243
5th  The Ancient Yew at Carreg Gwenlais Llanfihangel Aberbythych, Nr Llandybïe, Carmarthenshire 216
6th  The Cemetery Copper Beech , Crickhowell, Powys 120

Total: 1921