Ancient oaks and a mystical rowan make shortlist for UK Tree of the Year

Charity compiles shortlist of 'cathedrals of nature' from the Ancient Tree Inventory for annual contest

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Twelve trees that include five huge oaks — one in a landscape thought to be the inspiration for Narnia — and a rowan that looks like a portal to another world are on the shortlist for "Tree of the Year".

The list has been compiled for the annual contest run by the Woodland Trust from the charity’s “hall of fame” for very old and important trees, the Ancient Tree Inventory.

The trees have been recorded by volunteers since the pandemic began and a panel of experts has picked its favourites from hundreds of ancient and veteran trees, described as “cathedrals of nature”.

The public can now vote for their favourite to win the Tree of the Year competition for 2022, and go on to compete for the UK in the European Tree of the Year contest next year.

This year, the Woodland Trust is using the competition to highlight the importance of rare ancient and veteran trees, which it warns have little or no legal protection.

That is despite these trees, such as oaks that are home for 329 species, being a haven for wildlife, important carbon stores and historically and cultural significant.

The Woodland Trust is calling on UK governments to give legal protection to some of the most ancient and valuable trees by giving them heritage status, introducing strong, consistent policy protection for old trees and increasing support for land managers and farmers to care for them.

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“We believe that now is the time to give these living legends the legal status they deserve," said Adam Cormack, head of campaigning at the Woodland Trust.

“We all want to be able help to protect these wonderful old trees for centuries to come.”

Competition judge and inventory leader Tom Reed said: “The enthusiasm for ancient and veteran trees and the growing number of records being submitted to the ATI in the past couple of years showed just how much people love and value their trees.

“We selected the trees based on their size and significance for their species, and also looked for trees steeped in history as well as trees that had high ecological, aesthetic or cultural value.

“It’s over to the public to pick a favourite from that impressive list.”

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The list is:

The Escley Oak, Herefordshire

Thought to be at least 400 years old, it stands alone in a meadow and looks like two separate trees grown together because of the large hollow in its trunk.

The Flitton Oak, Devon

About 700 years old, the tree splays out eight enormous limbs dripping with moss and lichen, and has a rescue plan to stop it being smothered by younger trees.

Holly on the Hill, Hawnby, north Yorkshire

Standing out in the landscape is an outgrown coppice, with a trunk that is a collection of stems that have fused and grown together. It could have been there since the late 19th century.

The Burnbanks Oak, Haweswater, Cumbria

A striking sessile oak that is growing in a pocket of ancient woodland. Its centre is completely hollow with its trunk holding lichen, ferns and moss, and providing shelter for wildlife.

Hedgerow Hawthorn, Colton, Cumbria

A gnarled and windswept tree that forms part of a small line of hawthorns marking the site of a former land boundary, It is likely to be between 170 and 200 years old.

The ‘12 Apostles’ Lime, Chipping Camden, Gloucestershire

The largest of an avenue of 12 limes planted at St James Churchyard to represent the 12 apostles, it could be one of the original trees planted in about 1770.

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Kilbroney Oak, Kilbroney Park, County Down, Northern Ireland

A sessile oak in the landscape that is believed to have been the inspiration for the fantasy world CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, It is believed to be more than 300 years old.

The Portal Tree, Loanhead, Midlothian, Scotland

This nomination features a rowan, a species that features heavily in folklore, in the landscaped grounds of Mavisbank House, where it has bent over to form a full archway like a portal to another world.

The Rolls of Monmouth Oak, Monmouthshire, Wales

This is the largest on the Great Oaks golf course on the Rolls of Monmouth Estate, which provides an important haven for wildlife. The oak is likely to be more than 500 years old.

Langley Park Chestnut, Langley Park House, Scotland

It is thought to be as old or much older than the original 18th century Langley Park House in whose grounds it grows. It has a girth of 7.81 metres and huge branches that grow around the main trunk like a fallen crown.

Layering Horse Chestnut, Kedleston, Derbyshire

The tree's original trunk is hollowing and decaying, while the branches have fallen to its sides. From them roots have sprouted, anchoring them to the ground and allowing a new lease of life.

Waverley Abbey Yew, Farnham, Surrey

Its roots grow into and around the ruins of the abbey, which was dismantled after the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536. Its age is unknown but it cannot be more than 480 years old.

To see all the trees and vote for your favourite, you can visit the Woodland Trust website. Voting is open until Monday October 31.

Updated: August 09, 2022, 12:42 AM