Belfast Telegraph

Four crowned regional winners of Woodland Trust's Tree of the Year awards

A sycamore made famous by a film has won Tree of the Year in England, while in Wales an oak saved from being felled for a bypass has scooped the award.

A copper beech that is woven into the life of a school has been crowned Scotland's Tree of the Year and Northern Ireland's winner is a much-loved evergreen holm oak which leans at a 45-degree angle.

All four won following a public vote organised by the Woodland Trust and will now go forward to represent their countries in the European Tree of the Year competition in February.

The winning entry in England is the Sycamore Gap tree, one of the most photographed in the country, standing as a silhouette in a dramatic dip in Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland National Park.

The sycamore, which secured 2,542 votes out of a total 11,913 which were cast, is also known as the Robin Hood tree following its appearance in the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves starring Kevin Costner.

The Ding Dong tree at Prestonpans Primary School in East Lothian, which received 1,023 votes out of the 2,671 cast, is such a part of the school that the headteacher says it is almost like having an extra member of staff.

The copper beech gets its name from a tig game invented by pupils who compete to touch its trunk shouting "ding dong", while the canopy makes it an ideal classroom and it brings calm to children with complex emotions, the school says.

Northern Ireland's winning entry was the holm oak, which stands just inside the main Fairy Glen entrance to Kilbroney Park in Rostrevor, County Down, which has been much loved by many generations of locals.

Kilbroney Park is home to many remarkable trees but this distinctive oak, with a girth of nearly 12ft (3.6m) and leaning at 45 degrees so that it now needs some support, won the backing of the community and secured 1,192 out of 2,280 votes, the Trust said.

In Wales, the giant Brimmon oak in Newtown, Powys, which has a girth of nearly 20ft (6m), hit the headlines in 2009 when plans emerged to fell it to make way for the planned bypass, but landowner Mervyn Jonesobjected.

His campaign to save the oak, which was backed by a 5,000-strong petition to the Welsh Assembly, finally saw the Welsh Government agree to vary the bypass route in the hope of saving the tree. It won 565 votes out of 1,772 cast.

In addition to going forward to the European Tree of the Year, the four winners, chosen from 28 shortlisted entries, will each get a £1,000 care grant, the Trust said.

Woodland Trust chief executive Beccy Speight said: "Trees are inspirational in so many ways and our winners clearly demonstrate how we cherish these natural landmarks.

"They puncture our lives and landscapes and tie us to our past, the equivalent of our best buildings but yet are far less protected."

Annemiek Hoogenboom, country director of the People's Postcode Lottery, which supports the UK contest, said: "We are delighted to support the Woodland Trust and provide the opportunity for communities to celebrate these fantastic trees and care for them long into the future."

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