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Neath’s Hollow Tree scoops the crown

A hollow oak tree in Gnoll Country Park in Neath has won the public vote to become Wales’ 2017 Tree of the Year. Neath’s Hollow Oak received a massive 64% of the votes cast by the public.

As winner of the Welsh contest, which is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, the tree will also benefit from a £1,000 tree care award. The money can be used to arrange a health check from an arboriculturalist, provide interpretation or educational materials or simply just hold a celebratory event in honour of the tree.

Gnoll Estate Country Park was once owned and lived on by a wealthy industrial family called the Mackworths. Today the Estate has been developed into a country park surrounded by a beautiful 18th Century landscaped garden, open green spaces and wild woodlands including numerous attractions. A popular feature is an ancient oak tree that has been completely hollow since at least the 1950s. It has recently been fitted with bars to support the structure.

The tree has managed to survive in this condition and each summer produces a full and healthy crop of leaves and acorns. Generations of children have played imaginatively in this magical, mystical tree.

Beccy Speight, Woodland Trust chief executive, said: “Our competition aims to highlight and celebrate our country’s remarkable trees, and to ultimately ensure they are given the recognition and protection they deserve. The passion shown by the people who nominated trees, and the way the public get behind them in the voting process shows how much of an inspiration trees are to people.”

Councillor Peter Rees, Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Culture at Neath Port Talbot Council said: “We are extremely proud that The Hollow Tree has been crowned ‘Tree of the Year’. This is a popular feature within the Gnoll Country Park, and we would like to thank everyone who took the time to vote.”

A panel of experts in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland whittled down nearly 216 public nominations to create shortlists based on the nominees’ story. Six trees were chosen in Wales, ten in England and six each in Scotland and Northern Ireland.  In the other countries of the UK, the winners are:

England: the Gillwell Oak in Gilwell Park in Epping, the home of the scouting movement conceived by Robert Baden Powell. The towering oak was adopted by Powell as a message to young scouts that big things are possible from modest starts.
Northern Ireland: the Erskine House Tree, Belfast – a descendent of the famous Greek ‘Plane Tree of Kos’, under whose shade Hippocrates, the father of medicine, taught in 500 BC.
Scotland: The Big Tree, Kirkwall, Orkney –this 200-year-old sycamore is a well-known and much-loved local landmark, used as a meeting place by generations of Orcadians.

A panel of independent experts, one from each country of the UK, has now agreed that England’s Gillwell Oak should represent the UK in the European Tree of the Year competition in early 2018.

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 2017 winner was Poland’s Oak Józef. The Brimmon Oak in Wales came a close second.

People will be able to get behind the Gilwell Oak when voting for the 2018 competition opens on 1 February.

The Hollow Oak from Gnoll Park won a public vote which took place during the Autumn. The other shortlisted trees in the Wales Tree of the Year competition were the Fairy House Tree at Treffos Independent School in Anglesey, the Bleeding Yew of Nevern in Pembrokeshire, the Pulpit Yew at Nantglyn in Denbighshire, the Giant Redwood of Llangattock in Powys and the Bodant Coast Redwood at Bodnant Gardens near Conwy.