Essex

Epping's Gilwell Oak wins Tree of the Year 2017

Gilwell Oak, Essex Image copyright Woodland Trust
Image caption The Gilwell Oak is in Gilwell Park in the Epping Forest district of Essex

An oak with connections to the Scouting movement that was apparently also a shelter for a highwayman has been crowned UK Tree Of The Year.

The Gilwell Oak was reputedly used by Scouts founder Robert Baden-Powell as a metaphor for the movement's growth.

The Woodland Trust award followed a public vote for tree in Essex.

Dick Turpin, the notorious highwayman, is reputed to have hidden under the tree in Epping Forest as he prepared to ambush stagecoaches, the trust said.

Beccy Speight, trust chief executive, said the competition aimed to "ensure [trees] get the recognition and protection they deserve".

There were nine other trees on the English shortlist from Cumbria, Surrey, Sherwood Forest, Dartmoor, London, Sussex, Kent, Devon and Norfolk.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Robert Baden-Powell (centre right) at a Scout camp in Hertfordshire in the 1930s

The winning oak is in Gilwell Park, within Epping Forest, near Chingford.

The park was bought by the Scout Association in 1919 for use as a campsite and activity centre, and Scouting folklore suggests that in 1929, Baden-Powell cited the tree as an example of how big things grow from small beginnings.

Beads were carved from fallen branches and presented to boys in the early days.

Image copyright PA
Image caption An aerial view of the Gilwell Oak next to one of Gilwell Park's buildings

Bear Grylls, television outdoor survival expert and the movement's Chief Scout, said: "The Gilwell Oak has been the backdrop to hundreds of courses in which thousands of volunteer leaders have been inspired and motivated to change young people's lives.

"It's the unbending symbol of Scouting's desire to change the world for the better."

As English Tree Of The Year, the Gilwell Oak was up against the winners from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to be chosen to represent the UK at the European Tree Of The Year awards next year.

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