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
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
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
The school opened in 1853 – when the tree was already an
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
The Cubbington pear tree
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
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
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
“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."
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
village school is in the national final with a rare old
poplar which had been earmarked for the axe in 2010
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
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
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
Pupils, school staff and villagers fought the bid and
the tree was saved.
The poplar has since become the centre piece of the
The 250 year old Black
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
“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.”
TREE IN RUNNING TO TAKE PRESTIGIOUS TITLE
The following article was published in the Newcastle
Chronicle on Monday 21st September
tree in Northumberland which narrowly escaped the axe is
now in the running for a national honour.
public voting opens for the Woodland Trust’s Tree of the
received more than 230 nominations and whittled these
down to a shortlist of 10.
black poplar in the grounds of Acklington CofE First
School has made the cut.
poplars are one of the UK’s rarest and most endangered
trees, with only around 2,500 left.
Acklington tree is thought to be the only black poplar
in Northumberland and possibly the most northerly in
opened in 1853 – when the tree was already an old timer.
It is believed to be between 250 and 300 years old.
years ago, there were moves to fell the tree on health
and safety grounds.
prompted a drive to save the tree from John Davison, a
former head teacher at the school.
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.
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
“It is most
likely the oldest living things in Acklington parish and
has seen all the children go through the school from
appalled at the idea that such a fine tree could be
in Northumberland Wildlife Trust, which carried out
tests that revealed its probable age and the fact that
it was a black poplar.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Ankerwycke Yew at Runnymede, Berkshire, which could have
witnessed the signing of Magna Carta.
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.
Linford Manor lime tree at Linford Manor Park in Milton
Keynes, thought to be around 300 years old.
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.
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.
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.
VILLAGE TREE IN RUNNING TO
TAKE PRESTIGIOUS TITLE
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
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