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Read the stories behind England's Tree of the Year shortlist.
The Allerton Oak resides in the expansive Calderstones Park in Allerton, Liverpool. Allerton is mentioned in William the Conqueror’s Domesday book of 1086, and it’s possible that the oak was already growing by then.
According to legend, in medieval times the local court, known as a ‘Hundred Court’ would meet under the branches of the tree, as they lacked a courthouse. Another legend states that the large crack down the side of the tree was formed in 1864 when the Lotty Sleigh, a ship carrying 11 tonnes of gunpowder, exploded. The ensuing shockwave smashed thousands of windows through Liverpool, and was heard over 30 miles away.
Today the tree is fenced off to protect it, and its heavy boughs are supported by metal poles.
With its huge snaking boughs, the Dragon Tree of Brighstone is a sight to behold. One massive limb forms a bridge over the Buddle Brook below, which used to power the nearby Brighstone mill until it closed in the 1960s. It’s thought the oak took its unique shape after it was blown down in a storm, but, still supported by its existing branches, managed to re-root.
Local legend however holds that the tree was once a dragon that terrorised the local populace. A knight, recently returned from the crusades, fought the beast. When he struck the fatal blow, the dragon turned to wood and laid down roots, becoming the tree we see today.
The yews of Kingley Vale have graced the South Downs for thousands of years, and are some of the oldest living things in the UK. Local folklore has it that the Druids worshipped there before the Romans came and that the archers of Agincourt used the supple wood make their bows.
Over the centuries, most of Europe’s yew forests have been felled, with Kingley Vale being one of the finest remaining examples. And within one of the finest yew forests is one of our finest yews – the Kingley Vale Great yew. Although it is not the largest yew as far as its trunk is concerned, its large arching boughs form an impressive canopy.
This tree is a perfect example of nature's tenacity for life. Blown over in a great storm, the oak clung onto life with its last remaining roots and flourished despite its unusual position. Now its branches all grow from one side of the trunk, reaching upwards as if each one was a small tree.
It is a popular meeting point for friends, resting spot for walkers and picnic spot for families. Its rough bark has been worn smooth over years by the hundreds of children who have used its branches as a climbing frame.
At Bryanston School in Dorset, three lofty London plane trees grow in a row. All three are giants, but the central tree, at nearly 50m tall, is not just the tallest London Plane in the country, but also the tallest broadleaf in the UK. It is also one of the tallest broadleaf trees in Europe. To put its height into context, it is just shorter than Nelson’s Column, measured from the bottom of the pedestal to the top of Nelson’s hat. The tree’s height was confirmed back in 2015, when pupils from the school scaled the tree (with the help of professional climbing equipment) to measure it.
This most unusual Scots pine has, in the process of growing, bent round in a loop.
Located in a small area of woodland south of Thetford, we believe the shape of this tree has emerged entirely naturally – bent permanently downwards by wind or snow, and then reaching towards the light once the pressure was lifted.
The Cork Oak flourishes at a major junction on the A406 North Circular Road despite being at least 100 years old, surrounded by retail warehouses and constantly buffeted by road pollution. It’s just one of many examples of nature triumphing in adversity, and shows how trees can thrive even in the most urban of environments. It is the last surviving tree of a putative plantation of cork oaks planted by the Cork Manufacturing Company over a century ago. Its bark has been described as being like melted toffee, solidified into amazing crags and whorls.
The North Circular Oak was listed of one of 41 'Great Trees of London' identified by Trees for Cities after the Great Storm of 1987.
There are many famous trees associated with the buildings near which they stand, but very few actually growing on them. This sycamore has been growing on top of Colchester Castle’s southeast tower for around 200 years, with the story being that it was planted by the Mayor's daughter to commemorate the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815.
The tree had to be removed in 1985 so that the castle walls could undergo repairs. It survived its translocation though, and was put back in its original position in 1987 by the mayor of the day’s daughter.
It is much loved and talked about locally and is an instantly identifiable feature on one of Colchester's most iconic and historic buildings.
The Drive Oak has guarded the entrance to Wick Court farm for hundreds of years. It may well have been there when Queen Elizabeth 1st came from Berkeley Castle after being reprimanded for killing too many stags. Many visitors have walked under its branches to get to the gate, including several members of the current royal family.
Wick Court is run by Farms for City Children; over 1000 children aged 8-11 from inner-city primary schools stay on the farm every year, looking after the animals, growing the fruit and vegetables and enjoying the beautiful environment. Every week the oak tree is studied as part of a bird survey with the children and they get to climb inside and look up at the sky, as the tree is completely hollow.
100 years ago Dr Christopher Addison MP cut the first sod of Bristol's city-wide public housing scheme that was to provide ‘Homes Fit for Heroes’ returning from the First World War. To commemorate the event, the Lady Mayoress planted an oak tree, remembered today as Addison's Oak.
Addison was responsible for the 1919 Housing and Town Planning Act, which led to the first ever council houses being built, including those in Bristol. Prior to the war, slums were a major cause of ill-health. As the Minister for Health, Addison recognised that they could not deal with the health problems of the country without addressing the appalling living conditions many people lived in.
Addison's Oak is situated at the heart of the Sea Mills estate. It stands as a testament to the value of living in green, healthy surroundings, open to light and fresh air, and the importance of giving that opportunity to all people.