A competition is running to crown England’s Tree of the Year 2020 and voting is open to the public. Woodland conservation charity, The Woodland Trust, runs the annual competition, and its shortlist of ten trees has been whittled down from hundreds of nominations sent in by the public during lockdown. The competition offers a £1000 ($1332) tree care award for each winning tree.

The Beech Tree grows out of the ruins at Bayham Abbey in England
The Beech Tree at Bayham Abbey grows out of the wall of the ruins © Tessa Chan/Woodland Trust

The shortlisted trees include The Shoe Tree in Newcastle, which was named because shoes thrown by students on completion of exams nestle in its branches. Then there’s The Beech Tree at Bayham Abbey in Kent, which grows out of the wall of the ruins behind the altar. It has survived many events, including the great storm of 1987. “The competition has unearthed some remarkable trees and demonstrates the strong ties and affection communities feel towards them, fostering a strong connection with nature,” says Laura Chow, head of charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, which is supporting the competition.

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Other contenders include The Chained Oak in Staffordshire, which is the inspiration for the Hex ride at Alton Towers. According to legend, the Earl of Shrewsbury had the tree bound by chains because a curse stated that for every branch that fell, a member of the earl’s family would die. Then there’s the Happy Man Tree in London, which is currently earmarked for felling to make way for housing. It was nominated by parents and children who pass it on the school run and don't want to lose it.

A tree tied with red material and posters urging the saving of the tree
The Happy Man Tree in London is currently earmarked for felling © Tessa Chan/Woodland Trust

“We had more than double the number of trees nominated by members of the public this spring compared to past years,” says Darren Moorcroft, chief executive of the Woodland Trust. “This is perhaps no surprise given that lockdown had so many of us slowing down and taking more note of nature on our doorsteps, a boost for our mental health and wellbeing. At a time when we’re fighting both a climate and nature crisis, it is undeniable that trees are needed now more than ever. They are nature’s most powerful weapon in this fight.”

A tree with shoes hanging out of it
Shoes thrown by students nestle in the branches of The Shoe Tree in Newcastle © Tessa Chan/Woodland Trust

The competition is supported by players of People's Postcode Lottery, and there are also separate competitions running to crown a winner in Wales and Scotland. One of the three national winners will be selected to represent the UK in the 2021 European Tree of the Year contest. Voting closes at noon on September 24, and you can go online here to choose your favorite tree.

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