Belfast Telegraph

Tree created in lover’s gesture a century ago wins national competition

The Yorkshire beech tree grafted into an ‘N’ to woo a sweetheart named Nellie won the hearts of voters in the Tree of the Year contest.

A beech tree grafted into an N-shape to woo a sweetheart named Nellie has been crowned the UK’s tree of the year, the Woodland Trust said.

Nellie’s Tree, near Aberford in West Yorkshire, beat a giant redwood in Northern Ireland, a spruce in which children play in Scotland, and an oak that may once have hidden a king in Wales to scoop the overall prize for the UK contest.

The tree’s unusual shape was created nearly 100 years ago by Vic Stead, who walked along the old colliery railway from his home in Garforth, near Leeds, to visit Nellie, the young lady he was courting who lived in nearby Aberford.

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Vic Stead created the tree on the route he walked to woo his sweetheart Nellie, who lived in a nearby village (Rob Grange/WTML/PA)

When one day he came across three beech saplings on his route, he grafted one sapling between the other two to form the letter “N” in an attempt to woo his sweetheart.

The romantic gesture worked, with Vic and Nellie going on to marry and have a family.

Though they are now gone, Nellie’s tree, which is also known as the love tree by locals, remains and is a popular place for lovers to pop the question.

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Vic and Nellie Stead, whose romantic tree lives on (Chris Lund/PA)

The beech was nominated for the Tree of the Year competition by Vic and Nellie’s grandson, Chris Lund, who was told the story as a child by his grandparents when they went on walks past the tree.

The tree’s romantic history also won the hearts of voters, and it was the clear winner in the final of the annual competition.

For the contest, hundreds of nominated trees were whittled down to several entries each for Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, with a public poll to find winners for each country, and then a final vote for an overall winner.

Nellie’s Tree is a really fitting winner as all our trees could do with a bit more love right now Kaye Brennan, Woodland Trust

Nellie’s tree will now go on to represent the UK in the European Tree of the Year contest early next year.

Mr Lund said: “I am absolutely astounded and hugely happy with the support the tree has had. I think it’s just the wonderful story behind it. It is a fitting tribute to my grandparents.

“It just shows how important it is to protect the nature around us and also what we could lose if we are not careful.”

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Nellie and Vic Stead told their grandson the story of the tree when he was a child (Chris Lund/PA)

Kaye Brennan, lead campaigner at the Woodland Trust, said: “This northern gem, Nellie’s Tree is a really fitting winner as all our trees could do with a bit more love right now.

“Since last year’s contest thousands of trees have been needlessly lost across towns and cities, and opportunities to save important trees from infrastructure plans such as HS2 have been denied.

“We hope this tree’s tale stands as a beacon for the need to protect our special trees and the wonderful tales they have to tell,” she said.

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Nellie’s tree will now go on to compete in the European Tree of the Year contest (Rob Grange/WTML/PA)

The competition is supported by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, which funds a £1,000 care award to the winning trees from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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