NI’s Game of Thrones ‘Dark Hedges’ shortlisted in top tree contest

The 'Dark Hedges' beech trees near Ballymoney that have featured as King's Road in Game of Thrones
The 'Dark Hedges' beech trees near Ballymoney that have featured as King's Road in Game of Thrones

A tree at the heart of the movement for workers’ rights, one of Game Of Thrones’ dramatic locations and an oak whose boughs shaded William Wallace and Rob Roy are among those shortlisted for Tree of the Year.

The public are asked to vote for their favourite tree in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for the Woodland Trust’s Tree of the Year contest, with the winning one in each country entered into 2016’s European Tree of the Year competition.

More than 200 nominations for special trees from the public have been whittled down to shortlists for each country, with 10 on the list in England, seven in Wales and six in both Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The six trees shortlisted in Northern Ireland include “the Dark Hedges”, an avenue of beech trees featured in Game Of Thrones as the King’s Road and said to be haunted by a grey lady, and two lime trees which have grown together as one and have become a symbol of peace and unity.

In England, the nominated trees include: an ancient yew close to where King John signed the Magna Carta at Runnymede; Glastonbury holy thorn, linked to the legend of Joseph of Arimathea; and the Boscobel Oak where the future Charles II hid during the Civil War.

The Scottish trees nominated include the Clachan Oak where William Wallace is said have rested and Rob Roy Macgregor is supposed to have hidden, a giant redwood thought to have been sent back as a seed from the California Gold Rush and an oak which is almost all that is left of the Birnam Wood made famous in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

In Wales, the trees include one of the oldest yews in Britain thought by some to be at least 5,000 years old, a 1,000-year-old oak which has continued to grow after it collapsed in a storm in 2010 and a yew with a massive 33-feet girth.

Beccy Speight, Woodland Trust chief executive, said: “This contest reminds us how trees have been an integral part of this country’s history and play an important role in our lives today.

“We still need better protection for individual trees across the UK and we hope everybody who votes will also support our campaign to create a register for all our Trees of National Special Interest.”

Ray Hawes, head of forestry at the National Trust, which looks after three trees in the competition, said: “Competitions like Tree of the Year really do matter because they inspire people to take a closer look at trees and think about their importance to our national story.”

• To see all the shortlists and vote for favourite trees, people can visit before October 12.

The six trees short listed for Northern Ireland’s Tree of the Year are:

• The Peace Tree, Woodvale Park, west Belfast – this oak was planted in 1919, and honours local people who died in the First World War. It was rediscovered in 2006, the year of the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

• The Dark Hedges, Bregagh Road, Stranocum, Ballymoney – an avenue of beeches planted by the Stuart family in the 18th century to impress visitors to Gracehill House, which has been used in filming the TV series Game of Thrones as the King’s Road.

• The Mulberry Tree, Castle Park, Bangor – known as Her Ladyship’s Tree, the mulberry is thought to have been planted after 1852 by the lady of the house, Harriette Ward.

• Tree of Witness, Enagh House, Judges Road, Enagh Lough, Londonderry – a magnificent oak which is much older than the house in whose grounds it stands.

• Moneypenny’s Yew, Moneypenny’s Lock, Newry Canal, near Portadown – a 40 feet tall yew planted in the mid-19th century, on the banks of the Newry Canal.

• Tree of Peace and Unity, Dunadry Hotel, Antrim – a tree which began as two limes which joined together as they grew to become one tree, which newly married couples sit under to be blessed with health and happiness and which has become an icon of peace and reconciliation after Tony Blair, David Trimble and John Hume met here to broker peace in Northern Ireland in 1998.