Five gargantuan oaks, one of which is said to have provided the inspiration for the fantasy land of Narnia, and a spectacular 'portal rowan' are among the unique specimens in the running to be crowned the prestigious winner of the Woodland Trust’s Tree of the Year for 2022.
Tree experts at the Woodland Trust and the public have selected a shortlist of 12 trees from around the UK, which have all been recorded on the Trust’s ‘hall of fame’ for ancient trees, the Ancient Tree Inventory.
The competition celebrates these living legends and our panel picked their favourites from an original cast of hundreds that were highlighted by eagle-eyed volunteers since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.
Photo: Tree of the Year 2021 winner The Kippford Leaning Tree; credit: Drew Patterson
Competition judge and ATI lead 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.”
Now in its eighth year, the Woodland Trust’s Tree of the Year competition highlights the importance of rare ancient and veteran trees, their role in fighting climate change and biodiversity loss in the UK, and why protecting them is vital for the future of the planet.
Reed explained: “Oak trees, in particular, have the ability to steal the limelight as they are such awesome and striking specimens. Their sheer size captures the imagination, and the events they must have witnessed unfolding beneath their branches during their lifetime is mindblowing.
“The fact we have so many oaks featuring reflects the make-up of the ATI, which has more than 40% native oaks in the database.”
Oaks also support more wildlife than any other native tree species in the UK, with 329 species depending solely on oak trees for survival.
“Of course, there are many other equally worthy species – as this fine list shows,” said Reed. “And it’s important to remember that while not all ancient and veteran trees are as big as our ancient oaks, they are just as irreplaceable as havens for wildlife and carbon stores.
“All the UK’s remaining ancient woodlands and individual trees are crucial in fighting the climate and nature crisis, but they are also pieces of history with amazing stories to tell.
“Recent research has shown there are potentially hundreds of thousands of ancient and veteran trees still to be mapped across the UK and thanks to the combined efforts of ancient tree recorders over the past two years we have demonstrated that we are still finding special trees every single day.”
Tree of the Year celebrates these ‘cathedrals of nature’, but across the world our oldest, most valuable trees are being lost.
Woodland Trust head of campaigning Adam Cormack said: “These trees have significant value. Yet very few have legal protection, which currently only comes in very specific circumstances, like if a tree happens to be located in a protected wildlife site.
“It’s protection by proxy rather than proper protected heritage status. After all, some of these trees are more than a thousand years old.
“We believe that now is the time to give these living legends the legal status they deserve. We all want to be able help to protect these wonderful old trees for centuries to come.”
Many ancient trees, like this year’s entries, have no legal protection. But to protect them, we need to find them.
If these beautiful ancient trees have inspired you, join our expert volunteers and help us map the oldest and most important trees in the UK on our Ancient Tree Inventory, so we can fight to keep them safe.
Last year’s winner was a proud lone hawthorn, which captured the public’s imagination for its defiance in guarding the Scottish coastline. 'The Kippford Leaning Tree' took the crown after a hugely competitive social media vote across the Trust’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
This year’s winner, which will go forward to represent the UK in the European Tree of the Year 2023 contest, promises to be just as special.
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