Environment

England’s Tree of the Year Needs Your Vote

An ancient oak with historic links to the scouting movement could become European Tree of the Year. Saturday, 17 February

By Jonathan Manning
Photographs By Martyn Milner WTML

A handsome oak tree in the heart of Epping Forest, just north of London, is vying to be European Tree of the Year 2018.

Gilwell Oak is England’s reigning Tree of the Year, and has a fascinating history. Almost a century ago in 1929, the oak was chosen by Robert Baden Powell, founder of the scouting movement, to serve as an analogy for the growth of scouting worldwide.

His message to young scouts – big things are possible from modest starts.

The branches of the giant tree provided shade and shelter for some of Baden Powell’s first adult scout leader training courses. Even today, the Woodbadge marks the completion of formal Scout leader training, a reference to the wooden beads carved from windfall branches of the Gilwell Oak, which were originally given to early Scout leaders.

Caroline Pantling, heritage service manager at the Scout Association, said, “The Gilwell Oak sits at the centre of Gilwell Park, the spiritual home of the Scout Movement. It has witnessed the training of thousands of volunteers from around the global as they’ve cultivated their own abilities in order to support young people with developing key skills for life. It is the perfect symbol of how Scouting has grown from one man’s idea into a worldwide movement over the last 110 years.”

The European Tree of the Year competition is run by the Environmental Partnership Association, and based on a straightforward public vote. The tree with the most public votes wins.

Beccy Speight, chief exectutive of the Woodland Trust, said, “The contest doesn’t focus on the size, age or aesthetics of a tree. Instead it focuses on how people hold it in their hearts, the story behind it and the connection it has to a wider community. The Gilwell Oak means a lot of things to a lot of people. Everyone who has been involved with the Scouting movement will have heard of it, and we think we have the best chance of winning that we’ve had for a long time.”

Cast your vote before 28 February.

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