ENGLAND'S TREE OF THE YEAR 2015 - Articles from the Gazette, the Journal and the Chronicle


ACKLINGTON POPLAR PIPPED AT POST BY PEAR FOR TREE OF THE YEAR

The following article was published in the Newcastle Journal on Saturday 14th November

The ancient black poplar tree in Northumberland narrowly lost out in the Woodland Trust competition

A rare old tree saved from the axe was pipped at the post to be crowned Britain’s favourite.

The Acklington Poplar in Northumberland was in the running for Britain’s Tree of the year.

But another tree - this one also at risk of being felled - won the competition after scoring thousands of public votes.

The black poplar in the grounds of Acklington CofE First School was one of ten shortlisted in the Woodland Trust’s Tree of the Year competition.

Estimated to be between 250 and 300 years old, it was in 2010 to be felled when health and safety bosses announced it was a risk to pupils in high winds.

But pupils, school staff and villagers fought the bid and the tree - now centrepiece of the school logo - was saved.

The black poplar is one of the rarest native trees in the UK, with only 2,500 thought to be left. The trust received more than 230 nominations to reach the shortlist of ten.

The Acklington tree is thought to be the only black poplar in Northumberland and possibly the most northerly in Europe.

The school opened in 1853 – when the tree was already an old timer.

John Davison, a former head teacher at the school, lives in the school house and has a fine view of the tree from his kitchen window.

He said: “It is a majestic specimen and a haven for many small creatures, including owls, woodpeckers, red squirrels, bats and insects. I love it.

“Like all trees, it occasionally lost twigs and bits of branches in windy conditions but I thought if it was properly managed and perhaps pruned, there was no need for it to be felled.

“It is most likely the oldest living thing in Acklington parish and has seen all the children go through the school from 1853.”

The Acklington poplar lost out to an ancient pear tree - which lies in the proposed path of the HS2 high-speed rail link.

  
The Acklington Black Poplar                                     The Cubbington pear tree

The Cubbington Pear Tree near the village of Cubbington in Warwickshire sits on the proposed phase one line of the new rail route and is facing the possibility of being uprooted once construction begins.

The Woodland Trust, which runs the competition, said that more than 10,000 votes were cast by the public in favour of the winner.

Believed to be more than 250 years old and the second largest of its kind in the UK, the wild tree has stood for generations atop a hill near South Cubbington Wood.

The tree was nominated by Peter Delow, chairman of the Cubbington Stop HS2 Action Group, who said: “When I look at the fantastic trees that the Cubbington veteran pear tree has beaten to become England’s Tree of the Year, I am sure that the reason that it won is that it is under threat from HS2.

“Those who voted for our tree clearly care about the protection of our natural environment, and I am truly grateful to them for showing their concern.

“This is surely a clear message to the Government that it should demonstrate a better balance between the needs of our economy and the protection of our natural heritage. It would be perfectly possible to build HS2 without destroying our tree and many others, and the Government needs to think again.”

The tree now joins the winners from the three other home nations to contest the European Tree of the Year, held next year.

Glasgow’s Suffragette Oak, Belfast’s Peace Tree and an oak tree from Llanarthne in Carmarthenshire dubbed Survival at the Cutting Edge were all selected to go through to the competition which takes place in February 2016.

Beccy Speight, Woodland Trust chief executive, said: “These four trees all demonstrate the intrinsic way our lives are linked to the natural world.

“Sadly, many iconic trees do not have the levels of protection they deserve and this contest highlights the need to ensure they remain for future generations to enjoy and memories to endure.”

Ben Ruse, HS2’s lead spokesman, said efforts would be undertaken to ensure the wild tree’s legacy.

He said: “We have always recognised the significance of the tree and will do all we can to ensure that wild pear trees continue to be a feature of the countryside around Cubbington.

“Because the hollow lower trunk makes it impractical to move the tree, we instead plan to propagate the cuttings, collect seeds and replant the young trees in the surrounding area.

“The felled tree will be moved to a newly created woodland next to South Cubbington Wood where it could provide a new home for all sorts of wildlife including bugs, beetles, fungi, mosses and lichens."


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RARE OLD ACKLINGTON TREE COULD BECOME THE NATION'S FAVOURITE IN COMPETITION

The following article was published in the Newcastle Chronicle on Wednesday 14th October

The Northumberland village school is in the national final with a rare old poplar which had been earmarked for the axe in 2010

         
          Children from Acklington First School playing under the shadows of the 250 year old Black Poplar tree


Voting has closed in a competition which could see a rare old Northumberland ]tree crowned the nation’s favourite.
A black poplar tree in the grounds of Acklington Church of England First School is one of 10 finalists in England’s Tree of the Year, organised by the Woodland Trust.

The black poplar is one of the rarest native trees in the UK, with only 2,500 thought to be left.

The Acklington specimen is estimated to be between 250 and 300 years old.

In 2010 health and safety bosses announced plans to fell the tree deeming it to be a risk to the pupils in high winds.
Pupils, school staff and villagers fought the bid and the tree was saved.

The poplar has since become the centre piece of the school’s logo.

         
          The 250 year old Black Poplar tree

Voting in the competition, in which Acklington is the only North East finalist, is now closed.  The school will find out later this year whether it has won.

Headteacher Claire-Marie Cuthbert said: “The Black poplar tree in the corner of the playing field Acklington C of E First School is one of only a few still alive in Britain. It is also believed to be the furthest north Black poplar in Britain!
“It has been growing there since before the school was built in 1852. It is estimated to be between 250 and 300 years old and has now been incorporated into the school’s logo.

“Fortunately it was saved from being felled in 2010 and has recently been in the running along with nine other trees in the ‘England’s Tree of the Year’ competition hosted by the Woodland Trust, the results of which are to be revealed later in the year.”


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ACKLINGTON V
ILLAGE TREE IN RUNNING TO TAKE PRESTIGIOUS TITLE

The following article was published in the Newcastle Chronicle on Monday 21st September

                


A village tree in Northumberland which narrowly escaped the axe is now in the running for a national honour.

On Monday, public voting opens for the Woodland Trust’s Tree of the Year competition.

The trust received more than 230 nominations and whittled these down to a shortlist of 10.

And the black poplar in the grounds of Acklington CofE First School has made the cut.

Black poplars are one of the UK’s rarest and most endangered trees, with only around 2,500 left.

The Acklington tree is thought to be the only black poplar in Northumberland and possibly the most northerly in Europe.

The school opened in 1853 – when the tree was already an old timer. It is believed to be between 250 and 300 years old.

But five years ago, there were moves to fell the tree on health and safety grounds.

That prompted a drive to save the tree from John Davison, a former head teacher at the school.

Now retired, he lives in the school house and has a fine view of the tree from his kitchen window.

He said: “It is a majestic specimen and a haven for many small creatures, including owls, woodpeckers, red squirrels, bats and insects. I love it.

“Like all trees, it occasionally lost twigs and bits of branches in windy conditions but I thought if it was properly managed and perhaps pruned, there was no need for it to be felled.

“It is most likely the oldest living things in Acklington parish and has seen all the children go through the school from 1853.

“I was appalled at the idea that such a fine tree could be taken down.”

John called in Northumberland Wildlife Trust, which carried out tests that revealed its probable age and the fact that it was a black poplar.

John said: “When you consider that the black poplar is recognised as Britain’s rarest and most endangered native tree, you begin to understand what an important tree this is.”

John put his case to the school governors, and the tree was saved.

“Thankfully common sense prevailed and as a result of responsible tree management and sensitive pruning the tree was spared and the children have not been robbed of a fantastic piece of their local heritage,” he said.

The tree is now part of the school’s logo.

“I am absolutely delighted that the tree has made the competition short list. It’s fantastic news,” said John, who is urging the North East to vote for Acklington.

The Woodland Trust, with support from the People’s Postcode Lottery, is now inviting the public to vote before October 12, with the winning tree going forward to the European Tree of the Year competition in early 2016.

Beccy Speight, Woodland Trust chief executive, said: “This contest reminds us how trees have been an integral part of this country’s history and play an important role in our lives today.

“We still need better protection for individual trees across the UK and we hope everyone who votes will also support our campaign to create a register for all our Trees of National Special Interest.”

To vote, visit www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/treeoftheyear
 

Acklington’s opposition  (the other nine finalists)

- The Old man of Calke: This oak in Calke Park in Derbyshire is thought to be between 1,000 and 1,200 years old.

- The Ankerwycke Yew at Runnymede, Berkshire, which could have witnessed the signing of Magna Carta.

- Martindale Yew, St Martin’s Church, Cumbria, which is reputed to be at least 800 years old.

- Glastonbury Holy Thorn, Somerset. Legend has Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus’s uncle, thrust his staff into the ground at Wearyall Hill where it immediately took root as a hawthorn tree.

- The Linford Manor lime tree at Linford Manor Park in Milton Keynes, thought to be around 300 years old.

- The Boscobel Oak, Shropshire . Following the execution of King Charles I in 1649, his eldest son attempted to regain the throne but was forced to flee for his life, hiding in the tree to avoid Cromwell’s patrols.

- The Tolpuddle Martyrs Tree, Dorset. In 1834, six agricultural labourers from Tolpuddle were sentenced to transportation and seven years hard labour in Australia. The men had met beneath the sycamore tree in the village and had formed a trade union.

- Cubbington pear tree, Warwickshire. Believed to be over 250 years old, it is thought to be one of the largest wild pear trees in the UK.

- Lime tree, Litherland, Merseyside. The tree has been outside the house of Judith Clark for 27 years. Judith is housebound and the tree has enriched her life greatly. “I especially love to watch the tree changing with the seasons,” she says.

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VILLAGE TREE IN RUNNING TO TAKE PRESTIGIOUS TITLE
 
 
The following article was published in the Northumberland Gazette on Thursday 17th September
 
       
          
 
         Raegan and Casey with the black poplar at Acklington First School. Picture by Jane Coltman
 
 A rare and historic tree which was in danger of being felled a few years ago is in the running to win a prestigious competition – but the public’s support is needed to help it take the title.
 
 The black poplar, which is located in the grounds of Acklington Church of England First School, has been named as a contender in the annual Tree of the Year contest, run by the Woodland Trust.
 
 It fought off competition from an array of nominations to make the final shortlist of 10 trees in England.
 
 The public vote will launch on Monday.
  
 A representative from the Woodland Trust said: “The black poplar is one of Britain’s rarest native trees and the one in the grounds of Acklington school is believed to be the most northerly of its kind in Britain and the oldest thing living in the parish of Acklington.
 
 “The tree, which was there before the school was built in 1852, came close to being felled a few years back.
 
 “Unfortunately bits started falling from it, especially during gales and the knowledgeable health and safety people felt it posed a risk to the pupils.
 
 “However, common sense prevailed in the end and to the relief of the pupils, the local bats, birds and wildlife, and to all nature lovers in the parish, the tree was saved.
 
 “Not only that, it became the centre piece of the school’s new logo.
 
 “The tree has been nominated for Tree of the Year, a competition run by the Woodland Trust and despite receiving more than 200 public nominations, it has made the shortlist of 10 trees in England.”
 
 With the public vote opening next week, people are being encouraged to vote for the tree.
 
 The Tree of the Year competition, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, is a unique celebration of the links between people and trees.
 
 The contest is open to any living tree in the UK; with England, Scotland, Wales and for the first time Northern Ireland each having an individual contest. The deadline for nominations has closed.
 
 Each country’s individual Tree of the Year will go on to represent that nation in the European Tree of the Year competition, organised by the Environmental Partnership Association.
 
 The Woodland Trust hopes to improve the chances of a UK tree being crowned European Tree of the Year, after the Major Oak, the highest placed tree in the 2014 contest, only finished in sixth place.
 
 For more information and to vote for the black poplar at Acklington, visit www.woodlandtrust.org.uk