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Oak planted to remember Great War dead up for European prize

By Linda Stewart

Published 01/02/2016

The Peace Tree in Woodvale Park
The Peace Tree in Woodvale Park
The plaque at the tree to commemorate the fallen from the First World War

Northern Ireland's best-loved tree is now competing to be the best in Europe.

The Peace Tree, an oak in Belfast's Woodvale Park, triumphed over five other contenders last November to secure the title of Northern Ireland's Tree of the Year, in a competition organised by the Woodland Trust.

Now it faces competition from 14 other European trees scattered as far afield as Bulgaria and Estonia. The Peace Tree symbolises peace and remembrance and was planted on Empire Day in 1919 in honour of those who never returned home from the First World War.

It was jointly nominated by historian Bobby Foster and Sam Coulter. Mr Foster said: "This remarkable and well-loved tree, almost a century old, became an important focal point for veterans for many years after the First World War. And more recently, in 2014, a European War Memorial was erected beside it, marking the huge loss of life on both sides of the war. Uniquely, the memorial remembers the deaths of German, French and Belgian soldiers, as well as the loss suffered by the British Expeditionary Force. Essentially, we have two distinct tributes - one natural, living and ever-changing with the seasons, and one man-made. Yet both reinforce the same important message of peace and remembrance, and both will be at the heart of our community for centuries to come."

Sam Coulter added: "We were delighted when the Peace Tree was voted Northern Ireland's Tree of the Year and are truly grateful to everyone who took the time to vote. We're appealing to people to once again give this tree the backing it deserves, helping to put Northern Ireland firmly on the map."

The Woodland Trust's tree competition aims to highlight and celebrate the country's remarkable trees and to ensure these precious natural monuments are given the recognition and protection they deserve.

Patrick Cregg, director of the Woodland Trust, said: "The enthusiasm of those who nominated local trees, together with the number of votes, was fantastic. And now, for the first time, we have a wonderful contender representing Northern Ireland in the European contest. Sam and Bobby are inspirational, as well as informative."

To vote for the Peace Tree, head to www.treeoftheyear.org.

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