Environment

Admire Britain's Finest Trees

Discover the leading contenders in Britain’s 2017 Tree of the Year competitionFriday, 24 November 2017

By Vinny Crump
The Brimmon Oak in Newtown, Wales, was the UK's Tree of the Year 2016. A new bypass will be built around the tree to avoid its destruction, after a petition attracted 5,000 signatures.

One tree sprouted from the slime of Passchendaele on the Western Front; another grew out of a sailor’s corpse washed up from the Spanish Armada. And these are just two of the 28 charismatic candidates in the running to be named Britain’s 2017 Tree of the Year. The shortlisted specimens straddle the outposts of Orkney to deepest Deptford, and all were nominated by everyday nature-lovers as part of a contest is run by conservation charity the Woodland Trust. The winners will be revealed in December, but here's a preview of the favourites.

David McCabe's spruce at Abercairny, Crieff, Scotland is on the shortlist for 2017 Tree of the Year.

David McCabe’s Spruce, Perthshire

In 1917 a young Scots lieutenant pulled saplings from the mud of no man’s land at the battle of Passchendaele, and mailed them home in an ammunition box, writing that “Owing to the amount of shell, rifle and machine gun fire, practically nothing is alive any taller than these trees.” David McCabe later died from his battle wounds, but this towering spruce still stands as a living memorial at Abercairny Estate, in Crieff.

This handsome oak has stood proud on Dartmoor for nearly 1,000 years. It's a contender tobe 2017 Tree of the Year.

The Meavy Oak, Cornwall

This big-bellied beauty has bossed the village green in Meavy, on Dartmoor, for almost a millennium. Some say it sheltered Charles II on his flight from England, but what’s certain is it offered spiritual succour to locals long before nearby St Peter’s Church was built: preachers would let rip beneath its boughs, and a stone cross was even erected to consecrate the tree in the 1400s. Its hollow has since been used as a snug (seating nine) by landlords of the adjacent boozer – the Royal Oak, naturally.

This Spanish Chestnut Tree stands in the churchyard of St Patrick's, Cairncastle, Northern Ireland and is a contender for 2017 Tree of the Year.

The Armada Tree, Antrim

Legend tells that when the fleeing Spanish Armada passed the shores of Larne in 1588, a sailor washed up at Ballygally, no doubt from a galleon blown off course by gales. His corpse was buried in the picturesque churchyard of St Patrick’s, Cairncastle, where a chestnut later sprouted from his unmarked grave – apparently from a nut in the dead salt’s pocket. Today it is twisted and terrific – and right enough, dendrochronology has dated it to the 16th century.

This tree was already 400 years old when it got its name - from King John at the time of Robin Hood! It is a contender to be 2017 Tree of the Year.

The Parliament Oak, Nottinghamshire

Among the more grizzled Tree of the Year contenders, this 1,200-year-old oak is thought to be the most venerable in Sherwood Forest. It gets its name from Bad King John, who supposedly summoned his barons here when reports arrived about the revolting Welsh. Today it’s in the keeping of the Sherwood Forest Trust, which has pictures of bowler-hatted foresters tending its boughs as far back as the 1870s.

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