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EditorialsUp Front 4/17

Up Front 4/17

Despite a lifelong interest in sport and an enthusiasm for international competition, be it rugby, football, tennis, Olympics or even the ‘Sport of Kings’, I was surprised at my level of excitement to find out the result of an altogether different competition recently. The winner of the European Tree of the Year contest was announced in Brussels on March 21st, coinciding with this year’s International Day of Forests. The competition is not exactly a spectator sport and the rate of growth of trees makes it unlikely to be something to watch on a Saturday afternoon, but it is a unique event. It was launched in 2011 with the hope of highlighting the significance of trees and how much they deserve our care and protection. But unlike other contests, it doesn’t focus on beauty, size or age, rather on the tree’s story and its connection to people. Since the competition’s inception there has never been a British tree in the top three of the European Tree of the Year, but with entries from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland shortlisted, there were high hopes that at last a tree from the UK might win. It wasn’t to be, however. The favourite, an English oak from Poland that housed a Jewish family hiding from the Nazis during the second World War, whose image was printed on the Polish 100 złoty bill, received the most votes. But there was some consolation for the UK. A tree from Wales took second place. The Brimmon Oak from Newtown, Poweys has been looked after by the same family for generations. There are family wedding photographs from 1901 taken beneath its majestic canopy. However, its main claim to fame is the fact that in 2015 when it was threatened with destruction because of a new bypass, a community petition launched to save the tree resulted in the new road being rerouted. Rob McBride, a campaigner for historic trees who is also known as ‘Treehunter’, described the tree as a symbol of hope. He said it shows how we can live with nature, with just tiny adjustments to our thinking and our planning. A poignant comment at a time when major environmental decisions taken for short term gain might have enormous medium to long-term negative effects. A tree of the year competition may not generate the same excitement as The Grand National or the World Cup Final but, without any pun intended, it is a grounding initiative that should be encouraged.

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