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Scotland’s Tree of the Year revealed

The Big Tree, Kirkwall (Mark Ferguson)
The Big Tree, Kirkwall (Mark Ferguson)

SCOTLAND’S Tree of the Year was revealed on Wednesday 6 December at the Scottish Parliament.

‘The Big Tree’, a 200-year-old sycamore in Kirkwall, won the top honour.

The tree is a well-known and much-loved Orkney landmark, often used as a meeting place.

The winner receives a £1000 care package which can be used to hold an event in honour of the tree, or for a health check or educational materials.

Two runner-up trees – McCabe’s Spruce in Perthshire and the Beauly Sycamore – will also receive £500 care packages.

The prize money is thanks to support from players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.

The competition, run by The Woodland Trust, celebrates the country’s best loved trees – from historic giants to those with a special local story to tell.

The Big Tree’s story

During the Napoleonic wars international trade collapsed and the kelp industry boomed on Orkney, producing ash to be made into soap and glass.

Taxi driver Andrew Richards and Hazel Flett of Kirkwall and St Ola Community Council who each nominated the tree (Mark Ferguson)
Taxi driver Andrew Richards and Hazel Flett of Kirkwall and St Ola Community Council who each nominated the tree (Mark Ferguson)

A number of Orcadians became very wealthy and built grand houses in Kirkwall.

One of these houses had a walled garden in which three sycamore trees were planted.

In the 1870s a new owner felled two of the trees causing public outcry which saved the third.

As Kirkwall grew the Big Tree eventually found itself in a street rather than a garden.

In the late 20th century a public outcry once again saved the Big Tree when the local authority announced plans to remove it.

The Big Tree, Kirkwall (Mark Ferguson)
The Big Tree, Kirkwall (Mark Ferguson)

Woodland Trust Scotland Director Carol Evans said the Big Tree has a firm place in the community’s heart.

She said: “The competition celebrates grand trees, old trees, historic trees and trees with a story.

“The Big Tree may be a comparatively modest specimen but it has a big place in Kirkwall’s heart. A worthy winner!”

The Big Tree was nominated separately by Kirkwall & St Ola Community Council and local taxi driver Andrew Richards.

An expert panel chose six finalists from the 22 nominated trees, which went to a public online vote in September.

 

The other finalists were:

 

The Beauly Sycamore – Beauly

Nominated by Beauly Community Council and Beauly Gala Committee

 

The Carnegie Oak  – Dunfermline

Nominated by Pittencrieff Park Steering Group

 

David McCabe’s Spruce – Crieff

Nominated by Abercairny Estate and Crieff Remembers

The Greenock Cut Oak

Nominated by Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park Ranger Service

The Old Holly Bush – Castle Fraser

Nominated by The National Trust for Scotland