Giant redwood is Northern Ireland’s Tree of the Year

Ann Irwin of Arboretum Regeneration Castlewellan; Alwyn Sinnamon, head gardener at Castlewellan; and Dr Sally Montgomery of Castlewellan Futures' Heritage Group at the title-winning tree. Pic by Michael Cooper
Ann Irwin of Arboretum Regeneration Castlewellan; Alwyn Sinnamon, head gardener at Castlewellan; and Dr Sally Montgomery of Castlewellan Futures' Heritage Group at the title-winning tree. Pic by Michael Cooper

A monster of a giant redwood in Castlewellan, Co Down has been crowned Northern Ireland’s Tree of the Year in a search for the nation’s best-loved tree.

Organised by the Woodland Trust, the competition was open to any living tree in the UK – with Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales each having its own contest.

The four country winners – decided by a recent public vote – were revealed on BBC’s The One Show on Wednesday evening (October 17).

Northern Ireland’s champion took a well-earned bow having secured 912 votes, against competition from five other worthy contenders.

The giant redwood – or multi-stemmed giant sequoia (to be precise) – stands within the walled garden at Castlewellan Forest Park. This much-loved veteran, now over 160 years old, was planted as a sapling by the Annesley family, the former owners of the Castlewellan demesne.

With an awe-inspiring 19 trunks, it’s a firm favourite with young climbers, who are suitably amazed when parents point out that the multiple trunks are in fact one incredible tree.

Tree enthusiasts Dr Sally Montgomery of Castlewellan Futures’ Heritage Group and Ann Irwin of Arboretum Regeneration Castlewellan were behind the County Down winner. Their joint nomination stated: “This tree was grown from one of the original seeds first brought back to England, from California, in 1853 by the renowned collector William Lobb, working for Veitch Nurseries. He dashed to the Sierra Nevada in 1852 when he first heard of these monster trees, anticipating correctly that the species, renowned for being the world’s largest tree, would be hugely popular among Victorian collectors.“

The Woodland Trust’s Tree of the Year competition aims to highlight and celebrate our country’s remarkable trees, and to ultimately ensure they are given the recognition and protection they deserve.

Patrick Cregg, director of the Woodland Trust, said: “We’re truly grateful to everyone who has played a part – either by nominating trees or by simply taking the time to vote.

“We had a shortlist of six contenders, each with an amazing story. Thanks to the public vote, our Northern Ireland winner is Castlewellan’s magnificent multi-stemmed giant sequoia. Our congratulations go to Ann and Sally – they have worked tirelessly to put their tree, and indeed trees in general, firmly on the map. And now there’s another fantastic opportunity just around the corner.”

The charity has now set its sights on Europe – that’s the European Tree of the Year competition, run by the Environmental Partnership Association.

As announced on The One Show, just one of the four country winners will represent the UK in February’s European contest – and it’s up to the public to choose.

Voting is now open via the One Show homepage.