A historic spruce tree in the Outer Hebrides has been voted Scotland’s Tree of the Year.
Netty’s Tree on Eriskay was planted on the windy island more than 100 years ago by poet, priest and land rights activist Father Allan McDonald – and until recently remained the only one on the 2.7 square mile island.
The tree became a climbing frame for children across the island, with encouragement from Netty MacDonald, who lived on the nearby croft.
It is thought their exploring may have helped to inspire Father McDonald’s best-known work Eilein na h’Oige, or The Island of the Young.
After being nominated as a contender for the Woodland Trust competition by Inverness resident Eoina Wilson – who originates from the island – the historic tree fended off tough competition from across the country to be awarded the coveted title.
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The spruce was originally shortlisted by a panel of judges before becoming one of six finalists to be put forward for an online vote including, The Camperdown Elm in Dundee, The Filo Pastry Tree in Stranraer, The Flodden Tree near Coldstream, Malloch’s Oak at Strathallan and Napoleon’s Tree in Ecclefechan.
George Anderson of Woodland Trust Scotland said: “Having a tree to climb as a child seems like something many of us take for granted. When there is only one tree where you live, that connection becomes quite special.
“Imagine the generations of youngsters with memories of this tree. It is a very worthy winner. Now let’s get Netty’s Tree through to Europe.”
Now in its fifth year the Woodland Trust’s Tree of the Year contest aims to showcase the UK’s best trees to help drive up interest in their value and protection.
Each winner, for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, all received a £1,000 Care award through support from players of the People’s postcode lottery, to fund work on bolstering the health of the tree, signage and interpretation or a community celebration.
The public are now being encouraged to vote for the historic spruce to represent the UK in the European contest – being run by the Environmental Partnership Association – in an online vote, officially opened by BBC’s The One Show last night.
Shortlist of nominees for the European Tree of the Year competition
1. Scotland: Netty’s Tree, Eriskay, Outer Hebrides
2. England: Nellie’s Tree, Aberford, Leeds
It’s a love story that spans almost 100 years but this token of love will remain for generations to come.
Nellie’s Tree, known as the love tree, came to fruition as Vic Stead made the journey from his home in Garforth near Leeds, along the old colliery railway, to visit Nellie, the young lady he was courting who lived in the nearby village of Aberford. One day, he came across three beech saplings; giving him the idea to graft one sapling between the other two to form the letter N in an attempt to woo his sweetheart.
The couple went on to marry and produce a family that chose to share their romantic tale in memory of the beloved couple. Vic and Nellie’s grandson Chris Lund was the one who nominated the tree for the award.
3. Northern Ireland: The Giant Sequoia, Castlewellan Forest Park, County Down
Located within the walled garden at Castlewellan Forest Park, this giant redwood spruce, or multi-stemmed giant sequoia as it’s formally known, has become a firm favourite with young climbers in the local community.
Spanning 19 trunks, the tree was originally grown from one of the seeds first brought back to England from California in 1853 by the renowned collector William Lobb.
4. Wales: Pwllpriddog Oak, Rhandirmwyn, Carmarthenshire
Situated on the outskirts of the quiet village of Rhandirmwyn in Carmarthenshire among hedgerow, this giant 8.4m tree is believed to have existed for around 600 to 700 years; meanwhile, local historians believe it was planted to commemorate the Battle of Bosworth. Over the years it’s been believed to have been the hiding place of a king, with the local pub bearing the name the Royal Oak, and is understood to have become a meeting place for lovers in the local area.
The tree is hollow and several bands and choirs have taken the opportunity to perform various pieces of music from inside the iconic structure.