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Read the stories behind Northern Ireland's Tree of the Year shortlist.
The Nobbly Tree of Brooke Park was gifted to the Gwyn & Young Charitable Institution from the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens in 1851. The institution was set up in the 1830s at the bequest of wealthy linen merchant John Gwyn, and then later bequest from another merchant, Joseph Young. They wanted their considerable fortunes to be used to care for the orphans and poor children of Derry.
An area of parkland was purchased and a school building constructed, and some 10 years later, this plane tree was planted. Over the years it developed its large, squat trunk, and its rough, nobbly bark. It’s possibly one of the fattest plane trees in Northern Ireland.
This majestic Turkey oak that stands just at the edge of the west lawn at Hillsborough Castle is one of few trees that date from the building of the castle in the late 18th century. When the castle was built the gardens were planted with the latest plants and Turkey Oak had just been introduced as an ornamental tree. It was a new plant for a new house. Now it frames the castle and provides welcome shade for its many visitors. It stands over 28m tall with a girth of nearly 2m.
“This tree has been part of my life from birth. I was born in a Georgian House across the road from it and it has silently grown and watched over me all my life to date. I called it the King Tree from I was a child. It stands tall and proud even though it is aging gracefully like myself. It has smiled at all the children who pass it by going to school, the joggers and walkers pacing around the Mall and gently arched its branches to watch the cricket. It's always been there for me and I smile and relive happy childhood days every time I pass it by.” – K Edgar, who nominated the tree, which stands beside the Armagh war memorial.
The Crom Yew Trees are two English yews that are one of the standout features of Crom Estate in County Fermanagh. They are situated within the grounds of the Old Castle Ruins – a 1610 plantation castle. A male and female English yew have been planted in close proximity to one another so that from a distance both trees appear as one large mass of vegetation – hiding the true beauty beneath. Legend has it that in the early 1600s one of the O'Neills – at the time of 'The Flight of the Earls' – bade farewell to his lady love under the already venerable yew.
In the late 1840s the horizontal spreading branches of the female tree were supported six foot in the air on oak pillars and beams, while gravel paths ran beneath, and a party of 200 often dined under the tree. These oak supports are now gone, and the paths have grassed over. As of late, a family of badgers have constructed a sett beneath the larger female tree.
A venerable old oak tree stands tall at the entry to one of Northern Ireland's last remaining ancient woodlands, Rostrevor Oakwood. For generations the tree has greeted visitors to this magnificent woodland and provided a habitat for hundreds of species, including the welcome return of the red squirrel. Sadly, the existence of this tree was erased in a survey and report supporting the construction of apartment blocks and an underground car park within a few metres of its roots and branches. However, this attempt to make a life-supporting tree disappear has instead served to inspire locals and visitors from around the world alike who are now celebrating and spreading the name and fame of ‘The Invisible Tree’ far and wide, ensuring this precious tree becomes more visible by the day.
This tree was nominated by Therese Kieran, a poet taking part in the 26 Trees project, where 26 writers write short pieces about 26 trees species – and Therese’s subject is the hornbeam, such as this oriental hornbeam in Belfast’s Botanic Gardens. The tree was planted in the gardens in 1828, and today is admirable for its twisted, curving branches and wide canopy, which instantly inspired Therese – to her it seemed almost human in its form. It serves as a reminder that the way trees inspire us can be deeply personal, not just those trees which are the biggest or the oldest, or are connected to kings and queens.