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Tree of the Year 2019: Old Sweet Chestnut of Pontypool

This amazing sweet chestnut tree in Pontypool Park is around 400 years old. There are many other sweet chestnut trees in the park but from an ecological perspective, this one is the most interesting as it is hollow and you can walk inside it.

Over the centuries, many children would have centred their games around the tree, particularly for 'hide and seek' – even when everyone knew where they were!

These veteran trees – and especially this one – are a visible reminder of our heritage. The park was owned by the Hanbury family until it was given to the people of Pontypool in the early part of the 20th century.

Cathedral Road Lime, Cardiff

Cathedral Road is a busy artery into the centre of Cardiff. It is tree-lined, but this particular tree stands out from the rest because of its enormous size and gloriously huge canopy. Every day it pumps oxygen into the area so that we city dwellers can breathe more easily. Its immense canopy is a pure joy, and it's uplifting to look into it on days of weariness or stress. The trunk is massive too – far too big for one person to hug. It truly is a champion among street trees.

The Trust is delighted that the Cardiff Civic Society has nominated this tree; there are certainly some wonderful street trees in Cardiff which deserve to be celebrated.

Cefn Mably Oak, west of Newport

An ancient oak stands in the car park of the Cefn Mably Arms, Michaelston-y-Fedw. The building dates from circa 1550 and was originally a farm house before becoming a public house in the mid-19th century.

The oak tree is probably one of the oldest in Wales. Some say that it was planted in the year after the building was completed which would make it more than 460 years old. Others have estimated its age at closer to 800 years. Judging by its girth, the second figure is likely to be more accurate.

Newtown Black Poplar, Newtown

This tree is a prominent feature of Newtown town centre. The black poplar is one of Britain’s rarest and most endangered native species in uncultivated environments, with fewer than 7,000 in Britain. Rarely can it be said that a tree has moved from one side of the river to another. Following great floods in 1960 and 1964, flood prevention works diverted the course of the river so the tree originally on north riverbank is now on the south.

Later, after representation by the town council, it survived plans to fell and tarmac the site. In 2016 the town council took action to preserve the gene line by propagating cuttings with co-operation of a local garden centre – a story of survival.

Did you know?

Saplings from this 142-year-old gingko are being nursed in the Welsh Botanical Garden for shipping back to Japan for the many cities with connections to Admiral Togo.

Pembroke Dock Ginkgo

In 1877, the Japanese warship Hiei was built in Pembroke Dock. Lieutenant Togo Heihachiro was studying in the UK at the time and stayed at the Master Shipwright’s house for the commissioning of the Hiei. While there he donated a Japanese gingko sapling to be planted in the garden. Togo later became an Admiral and defeated the Russian navy in 1905. He is still revered in Japan as the Nelson of the East.

It is fitting that the sapling from Japan will return its children back there, completing the circle.

Tree fact

A lime bast beetle, so rare it was thought to have become extinct during the bronze age, is found in the Wye valley and has been recorded in the decaying branches of this tree.

Prisk Wood Lime, Penallt

Prisk Wood is a very special ancient woodland in the care of the Gwent Wildlife Trust and situated on a steep slope above the River Wye.

A striking feature is the mass of mosses, liverworts and ferns which carpet boulders, tree stumps and fallen tree trunks. Within this wood stands a magnificent pollarded lime tree with a large crown producing many flowers for bees. It is said that limes were favoured in the Wye Valley as there was a rope making factory next to the river.

Railway Street Cherry Tree, Cardiff

Splott is an urban area of Cardiff with very little green space so, in an effort to bring local people together and celebrate this valuable and beautiful tree, a small group of residents organised a Tree Party. They handed out multilingual invitations, put up signs, baked cakes, strung bunting, and picked up litter to make sure everything was ready for the party. They weren’t sure if anyone would come but on the day people kept coming and coming, bringing cake to share and plants to swap, hula hooping in the street and getting to know each other despite the pouring rain! The atmosphere was brilliant and they can’t wait to celebrate their tree with more parties in the future.