I am called many things. One of the least offensive is tree-hugger! As anyone who really knows me will tell you I love trees. I even grow trees although this year has been busier than usual and hasn’t left a lot of space to gather up the seeds and plant and pot them.
In my travels I have picked up seeds here and there. I have Holly trees from Hillsborough Castle and Rowans I picked up at Chequers once upon a time while visiting Tony Blair.
Most of my trees are local. Not surprising when you realise how much a part of Irish history and culture and sport and mythology are our trees. Many of our place names and towns and town lands and some of our counties derive their name from local trees. My home county of Antrim is associated with Aon Trim or Elder. Derry or Doire is connected to the Oak. Mayo or Maigh Eo is the plain of the yews and so on. Indigenous trees also encourage our native wildlife, whether birds or insects.
So, in the interest of promoting Irish trees I am asking readers everywhere to take a few minutes and log on to www.treeoftheyear.org and vote in the European Tree of the Year competition for Ireland’s entry - ‘King Oak’.
This is a huge Oak tree – a pendunculate Oak (quercus robar) - from the Charleville Forest estate at Tullamore in County Offaly. It is estimated to be aged between 400 and 800 years old. Locally it is well known and it is said that generations of Tullamore inhabitants have climbed its branches. It stretches 50 meters from the tip of one branch to the tip of another.
I heard about the Charleville Oak and the competition while listening to Derek Mooney’s excellent show on RTE 1. The person speaking about it claimed that romances began and some ended in the shadow of that great oak.
The European Tree of the Year is not about finding the biggest tree or the smallest or the oldest or most beautiful – however interesting these facts may be. The organisers say they are searching “for the tree closest to your heart, a tree with a story that can hold the community together.”
It’s about the connection between a tree and the community it lives in. According to Hana Rambousková of the Czech Republic who is one of the organisers of the competition; “these trees, many of them hundreds of years old, have witnessed important history in their community. They are tightly bound to a group of people, sometimes even the whole village.”
The closing date for the competition is February 28th and the results will be announced on March 1st. King Oak is currently lying in third place so let’s make an effort and help it win the competition.