The Stories Behind the Trees: The European Tree of the Year Awards 2020
Two trees in a wood

Published on

March 17 2020

The winner of this year’s annual ‘European Tree of the Year Awards’ contest is set to be announced later today, (Tuesday 17 March). Held by the Environmental Partnership Association, the award is a celebration of the cultural and natural heritage of trees, with 16 countries taking part in the tenth year of the awards.

Rather than judging the trees on their aesthetics, the ceremony honours the individual stories behind the trees, with some steeped in local legends. There’s a phenomenal array of symbolic and historic tales on offer, ranging from the “oak of the hundred knights’ to “a guardian of the flooded village” to the last resting place of Black Kate, a witch who led a gang of robbers and smugglers.

The UK’s entry is the stunning Allerton Oak, which is based in Liverpool’s Calderstones Park. The sessile oak (Quercus Petraea) is around 1000 years old and immersed in history. Described as the oldest oak in the North West, the tree holds significant weight in both medieval times and World War Two, with Christmas cards containing leaves from the tree sent to the parks staff who were fighting abroad as a token and reminder of home.

Allerton Oak in Liverpool
Jill Jennings, Woodland Trust

Inspired by the competition, I thought I’d share the tale of my favourite tree: 

With Coombe Abbey just around the corner in Coventry, I’d often spend many of my childhood days exploring the grounds, marvelling at the sheer size of the giant redwoods. But there was one local tree whose quirkiness stole my affection: The Storytelling Tree in Whinfield recreation park, Rugby.

Carved from the stump of an Ash, the storytelling tree was commissioned to commemorate the 175th birthday of author Lewis Carroll, who attended Rugby School. Featuring intricate carvings of several characters from Alice in Wonderland, the tree was topped by a chimney and circled by four wooden stools carved into the shape of books. Amongst the hustle and bustle of dog walkers, kids playing in the park and passing traffic, the Storytelling Tree always proved a tranquil escape, often reminding me to pick up a book and become curiouser and curiouser!

According to a press release from the Environmental Partnership Association last week, more than 234,000 people have voted so far, with the top three spots currently ranked with the Czech Republic’s ‘Guardian of the Flooded Village’ in first place, with the Russian Federation’s ‘Lonely Poplar’ in second and the Republic of Croatia’s ‘Ginkgo from Daruvar’ in third.

You can watch the announcement live today at 16:30 GMT here.