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England's Tree of the Year 2018 shortlist

Read the stories behind this year’s runners up.

Wyndham’s Oak, Silton, Dorset

Wyndham’s Oak could be 1,000 years old, and at 9.79 metres (32.12 feet), possesses one of the largest girths of any tree in Dorset. It is said to have marked the boundary between Selwood Forest and the Forest of Gillingham.

Also known as the Judge’s Tree, it was named after Judge Hugh Wyndham who purchased the manor of Silton in 1641. He was the Justice of the Common Pleas in the time of Charles II and used to sit within the tree and smoke his pipe to relax and contemplate.

Its history takes a darker turn towards the end of the 17th century, when rebels were supposedly hanged from it following the failed Monmouth rebellion of 1685.

The current owner of the farm remembers losing a cow, only to find it two days later stuck firmly inside the hollow trunk.

Wyndham's Oak (photo: Julian Hight/WTML)

The Old Electric Oak, Wickwar, Gloucestershire

Sat beside a public footpath near Wickwar quarry sits an impressive oak with an electrifying tale. Measuring 10.5m in girth, it is one of the largest oak trees in the UK.

This tree’s story is one of survival against the odds. In 1938 a power company tried to burn the tree down to make it easier to run the power line through the field. They installed the lines directly over the top of the burnt tree. However they had failed to kill the tree and it continued to grow.

Having grown into the lines the top of the tree was removed during the 1970’s; but by 2017, the tree had grown in contact with the pole and was approaching the lines themselves again.

An arborist recommended the tree be felled to protect the lines. The surveyor approached the manager of the quarry for permission to undertake the work. Luckily, the quarry manager recognised the historical and ecological importance of the tree and refused.

Subsequently a local councillor, and tree warden, contacted the Local Planning Authority to request that the tree be protected by a Tree Preservation Order. With the tree successfully protected, the quarry requested the overhead line be moved away from the tree to prevent any future conflict, and thereby protecting the tree from further clearance work.

The tree now sits inside a protective fence awaiting the alteration to the overhead power line, which has been its neighbour for the best part of a century. This resilient tree, and the history contained within, lives to see another year thanks to the actions a few determined individuals.

The Old Electric Oak (photo: David Hampton/WTML)

Verdun Horse Chestnut, St Albans

The Verdun Horse Chestnut tree at St Albans was grown from a conker taken from the last tree standing on the battlefield of Verdun in the First World War.

Verdun was the longest individual battle of the war, lasting over nine months and costing over 300,000 lives. After the war, acorns and conkers were taken from the battlefield and planted across the UK to commemorate the war – The St Alban’s Verdun Horse Chestnut is one such specimen.

Verdun Horse Chestnut (photo: Rob Grange/WTML)

The Bruce Castle Oak, Tottenham, London

The Bruce Castle Oak stands in Tottenham's first public park, opened in 1892 in the grounds of the 16th century manor house Bruce Castle. The Oak provides shelter and shade beneath its ample canopy, and has acted as a natural climbing frame for generations of children.

It is estimated to be over 450 years old, making it the oldest tree in Haringey. It is possible that it was a sapling when Henry VIII met his sister Margaret, Queen of Scotland at Bruce Castle in 1516 and it certainly would have been there when his daughter Elizabeth I visited in 1593.

Tottenham Oak (photo: Julian Hight/WTML)

Eastern Preston Twin, Preston Park, Brighton

The Preston Twins are two very old English elms at the north end of Preston Park, Brighton. They are two of the oldest and largest surviving English elms in Europe, estimated at around 400 years old.

In 2017 the larger of the two trees, the eastern twin, suffered a major loss when around half of its structure came down in high wind. It was feared that the tree might not survive the damage, but after treatment by an arborist, the tree survived.

Dutch elm disease has ravaged the elm population in Britain, and the particularly susceptible English elm has been all but wiped out. This makes the Preston Twins special not only for their size and age, but also their status as survivors.

Left, the fallen bough is removed after it breaks off in a storm, August 2017. Right, the tree in September 2018 (photo: David McHugh/WTML)

The Quarr Abbey Oak, Ryde, Isle of Wight

Founded in 1132, Quarr Abbey housed a group of Cistercian monks until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII in 1536. The abbey fell to ruin, but through the remains of the infirmary grew an oak tree. The oak has three trunks, which join together to form a natural archway, mimicking the old infirmary window next to it. The oak has even grown up and around the last remnants of a stone wall, surrounding the masonry and slowly occluding the stones as it grows.

This tree is not only a magnificent oak tree but it is also a marvellous time capsule of social history. A demonstration of how a tree can literally grow on what previous generations have built upon.

A new abbey was built nearby at the beginning of the 20th century, and is still a working monastery of the Benedictine order.

Quarr Abbey Oak, Isle of Wight (photo: Sienna Anderson)

John Keats's Mulberry, Hampstead, London

The poet John Keats wrote many of his most famous poems in the garden at 10 Keats Grove, where he lived from 1818-1820 before he moved to Italy, shortly before his death at only 25.

In the same garden where Keats is thought to have written Ode to a Nightingale grows a squat, twisting ancient Mulberry that is thought to predate the house itself, so it certainly would have been witness to Keats’ creation of what would become some of the world’s most renowned poetry.

The mulberry itself is thought to be the last retains of a fruit orchard that once stood in the gardens.

John Keats's Mulberry (photo: Julian Hight/WTML)

The Arbor Tree, Aston on Clun, Shropshire

The Arbor tree was reputedly the oldest tree in Britain to have been continually decorated – its branches adorned with flags and banners. Written records date back to the late 19th century, but oral tradition dates it back to 1786, when a local squire and his bride passed the tree on their wedding day and left money for it to be hung with flags in perpetuity to celebrate.

Sadly, the original Arbor tree collapsed in a storm in 1995, but fortuitously a cutting had been taken and planted some ten years prior. The young tree that grew from that cutting, genetically identical to the original, was dug up and moved to the site of the old tree where it still stands today, allowing the old tradition of dressing the tree every May to continue.

This tree has brought local people together in an annual celebration that has continued virtually unbroken for hundreds of years, and represents how important traditions linking people and trees can be.

Arbor Tree (photo: Rob Grange/WTML)

The Drunkard Rowan, Caldbeck, Cumbria

It should be obvious how the Drunkard Rowan, also known as the Windswept Woman of Caldbeck Common, got its name. The tree’s trunk is bent at an incredible 90° angle, amazingly without having snapped.

The common it grows on is boggy and exposed, tough conditions for any tree. Over the course of its life, the rowan has gradually sunk and bent as it has grown, thanks to the high winds it suffers and the soft clay deposit on which it sits.

Unsurprisingly given the conditions, it has very few neighbours, making it stand out even more against the harsh landscape.

Drunkard Rowan (photo: Val Corbet/WTML)