England Tree of the Year 2020

To vote for your favourite tree please visit our shortlist page

Photo credit: Tessa Chan

You are voting for:

The Beech Tree in the Altar, Bayham Abbey, Kent

This beech tree grows atop the remains of a wall at ruined Bayham Abbey, near Lamberhurst, Kent. Growing just behind the former altar of the abbey, the tree is perfectly framed by two columns as you walk up what would have once been the aisle. 

The abbey itself, built about 800 years ago, fell into ruin after the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in the 1500s. The beech is probably less than 200 years old, so the abbey would have long been a ruin when it started to grow. In that time though it has survived much, including the great storm of 1987, in which part of the tree was lost. Its grandeur, however, remains as great as ever.

Want to vote for a different tree? Return to the England shortlist

Photo credit: Tessa Chan
 

You are voting for:

The Shoe Tree, Heaton Park, Newcastle

The Shoe Tree is a sycamore in Heaton Park, Newcastle. No one is precisely sure how or when the tradition started, but people mark big occasions such as finishing exams by throwing a pair of old shoes up into the branches. The Shoe Tree is continually laden with the memories of a city, demonstrating the shoe fashions of decades gone by. Now there is even a Shoe Tree Cafe round the corner. 

Periodically the council will remove some of the shoes to prevent the tree’s health suffering, or a pair of shoes falling on an unfortunate passer-by, but it doesn’t seem to have done anything to dampen the tradition.

Want to vote for a different tree? Return to the England shortlist

Photo credit: Tessa Chan

You are voting for:

The Marylebone Elm, Marylebone, London

This Huntingdon Elm stands tall over Marylebone High Street in central London, a survivor of both the bombs of the Blitz and Dutch Elm Disease, which by 1980 had killed most of Britain’s Elms. The tree is situated next to the Garden of the Rest, the site of the old Marylebone parish church. The Church was demolished after being damaged during the bombing raids of the Blitz in World War 2, but the tree escaped unharmed.

With so many elms across the country lost, including in London, the Marylebone Elm is a remarkable example of resilience. Not just as an Elm, but also as an urban tree: growing strong despite the confinement of the pavement and the surrounding buildings.

Want to vote for a different tree? Return to the England shortlist

Photo credit: Tessa Chan

You are voting for:

The Wilmington Yew, Wilmington, Sussex

This ancient yew grows in the churchyard of St Mary and St Peter’s Church, Wilmington. However, at an estimated 1600 years old, the yew predates the founding of the church by several hundred years. Yew trees were spiritually important in pre-Christian Britain, and churches were often built on pagan spiritual sites, so it’s entirely possible that this tree was important to the locals of the time in the hundreds of years before the church was built.

Today, the tree’s heavy boughs are supported by a number of wooden props, reducing the strain their weight causes the tree and therefore reducing the chances that one might break. A hefty chain wrapped around the two trunks serves a similar purpose, holding this venerable ancient together.

Want to vote for a different tree? Return to the England shortlist

Photo credit: Tessa Chan

You are voting for:

The Beltingham Yew, Beltingham, Northumberland

The Beltingham Yew grows in the churchyard of St Cuthbert’s church in Beltingham. There are actually three yews in the churchyard, but one stands out from the others as the oldest and largest.

Thick iron bands are wrapped around the trunk to help hold the tree together, for fear that if part of it collapses it may damage the church. Even iron can’t stop the yew’s growth though – its trunk bulges around the belts, threatening to envelop them were they not adjustable.

The tree is thought to be around 900 years old, but local legend says that St Cuthbert preached beneath its branches in the 7th century. It is still much loved today – in recent years it was the subject of a project by the Hexham club for Visually Impaired People, whose members visited the tree and turned their experience into a book of poetry and prose.

Want to vote for a different tree? Return to the England shortlist

Photo credit: Tessa Chan

You are voting for:

The Crouch Oak, Addlestone, Surrey

The Crouch Oak has a long and storied history. It was supposedly the marker point for the eastern edge of Windsor Forest, back when the Forest covered a much larger area, and served as the King’s hunting grounds. Queen Elizabeth the first is said to have picnicked beneath its branches, at which point it would already have been well established. 

In the past it was also known as Wycliffe’s Oak, named for the radical priest John Wycliffe, who is said to have preached under the tree to his followers in the 14th century, after having been expelled from Oxford for his teachings.

In the early 19th century the tree was fenced off by the landowner, as local young women had been stripping bark from the oak in order to make love potions! Fortunately, they didn’t do any lasting damage, and today the oak stands proud, unfenced, one heavy bough supported by a pole. It is a rare example of an urban ancient oak tree.

Want to vote for a different tree? Return to the England shortlist

Photo credit: Tessa Chan

You are voting for:

The Remedy Oak, Dorset

From a distance it’s difficult to appreciate the grandeur of the Remedy Oak, as it is covered in ivy and moss that helps it blend into the surrounding hedges. But get up close and you can see why it’s such a special tree. It leans at such an angle that it must be held back with steel cables, to prevent it falling into the road. From behind, you can see how it has hollowed out – a sign of its advanced age, and a hint that it was perhaps once much larger. 

It gets it name from a legend that King Edward VI had touched the tree, and in doing so, conveyed healing powers upon it. In the middle ages it was thought that the monarch was able to cure the disease scrofula by the laying of hands on their subjects. The story goes that during a tour of the area in 1552, the boy king sat beneath the tree whilst people lined up to receive ‘the king’s touch’ and be cured. He touched the tree whilst he was there, and supposedly it received the ability to cure the disease from him.

Want to vote for a different tree? Return to the England shortlist

Photo credit: Tessa Chan

You are voting for:

The Grantham Oak, Grantham, Lincolnshire

The impressive Grantham Oak stands at the roadside in a residential area of Grantham. Just over 100 years ago, its surroundings would have all been fields, aside from the watermill over the way. Around that time it would have also seen the troops training at nearby Belton Park marching back and forth under it as they prepared to be sent off to the front lines of the First World War. Even as its surroundings have changed over the years, the oak remains. 

Recently however, its future looked less certain. In 2018, a utility company set up working around the tree, parking heavy equipment under its branches and digging trenches nearby, inadvertently threatening its roots. The Woodland Trust, also based in Grantham, sprung into action, working with the council to make sure that adequate protections were put in place to ensure the tree’s future – a rope barrier has been erected to keep vehicles from driving over its roots, followed by a special protective surface over the wider area. The Grantham oak should still have a long life ahead of it.

Want to vote for a different tree? Return to the England shortlist

Photo credit: Tessa Chan

You are voting for:

The Chained Oak, Alton, Staffordshire

The Chained Oak is swathed in chains and a mysterious, sinister legend. As the Earl of Shrewsbury was passing the oak, on his way home to Alton Towers (back when it was a stately manor, and not a theme park), an old beggar woman stepped out in front of his carriage and asked for a coin. The Earl refused, and so the old woman cursed the Earl and his family: Whenever a branch of the mighty oak broke, a member of the Earl’s family would die. He dismissed her and carried on his way. That night, a raging storm broke one of the branches, duly accompanied by the death of one of the Earl’s family that same night. 

To escape the curse, the Earl ordered that every branch of the tree be secured with chains, to prevent any more from falling. The legend has now taken on a second life, adapted and retold as part of the haunted house ride ‘Hex’ at nearby Alton Towers.

Want to vote for a different tree? Return to the England shortlist

Photo credit: Tessa Chan

You are voting for:

The Happy Man Tree, Hackney, London

TCurrently earmarked for felling, the plight of this 150 year old Plane has awakened something in a community that couldn’t bear to see it go. The dressing of the tree, and the signs behind it, are testament to the strength of feeling among the local campaigning. As an urban tree, it makes an important contribution to combatting air pollution and making grey city streets green. But the community sees it as more than just the sum of it’s parts – it’s part of the estate, part of their collective history.

The threat to the Happy Man Tree highlights how important it is that all housing developments are planned with existing and mature trees at their heart: we all deserve trees and green spaces around where we live, including in our most urban areas.

Want to vote for a different tree? Return to the England shortlist

Your details