Ancient trees are Competing for UK's 'Tree of the Year'

This annual event organized by the Woodland Trust celebrates trees.

Sep 8, 2023


Ancient tree in Northumberland

(Dave Head /

There is nothing in this world quite like a tree. That’s because trees clean the air, offer animals a home, provide shade and food, as well as something less tangible. Trees, reported CNN,  offer a glimpse into the hidden history of the land.

To celebrate trees, the Woodland Trust – the largest nonprofit conservancy in the UK – holds an annual contest to pick the UK “Tree of the year.”  Thirteen of the best trees, with the most interesting stories compete for the title. “[These] Ancient trees in towns and cities are vital for the health of nature, people and planet,” Naomi Tilley, lead campaigner at the Woodland Trust, said in a press release.

The importance of ancient trees
Ancient trees in the UK are not protected by law, according to Tilley, and the ones that are located in urban areas are very vulnerable to loss. Ancient trees are declining globally and not just in the UK, according to a 2020 study. These trees have connections to history and folklore around the globe.

But few countries have amassed a recorded history of trees the way the UK has. In fact, the UK has a database of ancient, veteran, and notable trees called The Ancient Tree Inventory (ATI).

Many of the trees on the ATI have narrowly been saved by destruction through wars, arson, vandalism, and to municipality’s mandated felling, according to CNN. The Woodland Trust chooses 12 urban trees for the contest based on this database and the last one is chosen by the public.

Historic trees in the competition
While there are 13 trees in the competition. Goodnet is highlighting three of the trees with compelling histories. These historic trees all have a fascinating story to tell, according to the press release.

Crouch Oak, in Addlestone
This oak tree has had many names over its eight centuries. This historic tree is also known as the Queen Elizabeth I picnic tree because it is believed that the beloved queen once dined under its branches. But the tree is even older than that. In the 1300s, John Wycliff gave his sermons under its boughs. Sadly, the tree suffered attacks in recent years including an arsonists attempt to burn it down in 2007, but it was saved by firefighters and still stands today.

Holm Oak Blitz Tree in Exeter
While this tree is not old enough to be ancient, it still has an amazing history. On May 4, 1942, during the blitz, 20 bombers flew over Exeter and devastated the city. There was extensive damage to buildings and to the landscape including to the Southernhay United Reformed Church on Dix’s Field.  But the Holm Oak which stood near the front door of the church survived and is seen as a symbol of hope and strength.

Greenwich Park Sweet Chestnut in London
This sweet chestnut tree was planted in the reign of king Charles II after he announced a plan for Greenwich Park. This grand plan included planting hundreds of trees in formal avenues – mimicking the French –  around his palace. While the palace has never been rebuilt, many of the trees are still standing. While twisted and gnarled, these trees still have an important role to play.

The voting is open until October 15 and the winner will be announced on October 19. The winning tree will represent the UK in the European Tree of the Year competition.

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Bonnie has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.