Scotland

Orkney's 'Big Tree' becomes Scotland's Tree of the Year

Big Tree Image copyright Mark Ferguson
Image caption The Big Tree is a much-loved local landmark

Small in stature, big on name, that describes Scotland's Tree of the Year.

A 200-year-old sycamore, nicknamed by locals in Kirkwall as the "Big Tree", has pipped a Spruce in Perthshire and a Sycamore in Beauly to the top honour.

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 much-loved Big Tree was nominated by members of the public.

It is a well-known and much-loved landmark in Kirkwall, used as a meeting place by generations of Orcadians.

Some might argue it owes its existence to Napoleon.

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

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

Image copyright Mark Ferguson
Image caption Taxi driver Andrew Richards and Hazel Flett from Kirkwall & St Ola Community Council nominated the Big Tree

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 a public outcry that 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 it when the local authority planned to remove it.

The People's Postcode Lottery has provided the prize, a £1,000 care package for the winning tree.

The award can be used to arrange an expert health check, provide interpretation or educational materials, or hold a celebratory event in honour of the tree.

Image copyright Mark Ferguson
Image caption The tree is used as a local meeting place

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

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

Woodland Trust Scotland Director Carol Evans 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!"


Best of the rest: The other finalists

Image copyright Niall Benvie
Image caption David McCabe's Spruce in Crieff was a runner-up

David McCabe's Spruce, Crieff. A sapling pulled from the mud of no-man's-land at Passchendaele by Lt David McCabe and sent home to his father in Perthshire.

Image copyright Niall Benvie
Image caption The Beauly Sycamore also wins a £500 care package

The Beauly Sycamore, Beauly. A huge tree which has stood for several centuries, dominating the picturesque ruins of Beauly Priory, a site Mary Queen of Scots visited in 1564 on her way to Dingwall, speaking of the abbey and its orchard's beauty.

Image copyright Niall Benvie
Image caption The Carnegie Oak

The Carnegie Oak, Pittencrieff Park, Dunfermline. It was planted in 1904 by famous industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who lived as a boy within a stone's throw of the park, known locally as The Glen.

Image copyright Niall Benvie
Image caption The Greenock Cut Oak

The Greenock Cut Oak. Passed by thousands of people completing the Greenock Cut Trail every year, it stands covered in ferns, mosses and lichens. It is an ambassador for Shielhill Glen Site of Special Scientific Interest and an outdoor classroom.

Image copyright Niall Benvie
Image caption The Old Holly Bush

The Old Holly Bush, Castle Fraser. Believed to be one of the oldest holly trees in Scotland, it has a girth of 3.17m (10ft 5in), and stands on what is believed to have been the edge of a 17th Century enclosed garden

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