It’s a wonderful time of the year in Britain, the time to honor the Isles’ Tree of the Year.
Organized by the Woodland Trust, one of the UK’s largest nature advocacy, conservation, and educational organizations, this years’ entries revolve around a theme of honoring ancients which dwell among us in towns and cities.
The Oak of Belton Lane—referred to in some places as the Grantham Oak, is believed to be 500 years old. It could be a favorite for the award, as it has already been nominated in previous years.
In centuries past, the top half of the tree was routinely pruned for fodder and firewood, a practice which incidently helps trees live longer. Trees cut in this way, called “pollarding” often develop bizarre shapes that seem completly out of sync with the surrounding woodland. Not a problem with this tree, since the neighborhood it sits in was built in an arch around the magnificent oak.
It’s facing stiff competition, as Sheffield’s Chelsea Road Elm demonstrates the resilience of trees even in the face of urbanism. Saved from the chop of a development company after it was discovered to host breeding habitat for the rare white-letter hairstreak butterfly, it also was one of a few hundred elm trees that survived the Dutch elm disease epidemic that killed about 60 million trees in Britain.
“Ancient trees in towns and cities are vital for the health of nature, people and planet,” said Woodland Trust lead campaigner, Naomi Tilley.
“They give thousands of urban wildlife species essential life support, boost the UK’s biodiversity and bring countless health and wellbeing benefits to communities.”
Another strong contender is the Crouch Oak of Addlestone, believed to have sheltered Queen Elizabeth I and her entourage as they had a picnic beneath its boughs.
— Chertsey History (@ChertseyHistory) April 22, 2018
Previous winners have been a 100-year-old hawthorne tree bent over from the wind on the rugged Scottish coast, a 500-year-old yew tree from Waverley Abbey in Surrey, and an oak tree in Liverpool so old, it was used as the courthouse during Norman times.
The winner of the Tree of the Year contest in the UK will go on to enter the European Tree of the Year contest.
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