A holm oak at Kilbroney Park in Rostrevor 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 saw six splendid specimens across the country compete for public favour, with the champion securing 1,192 votes.
Northern Ireland’s winner – along with the winning tree in England, Scotland and Wales – was recently revealed in a Channel 4 documentary Tree of the Year with Ardal O’Hanlon.
Affectionately known as ‘Old Homer’, this mighty evergreen oak was planted some 200 years ago by the Ross family on, at that time, their private estate. The Ross’ legacy, a mix of native and exotic specimens from all over the world, lives on in Kilbroney Park – now council-owned and open to the public.
Almost two centuries on, this tree will represent Northern Ireland in the European Tree of the Year contest, which – run by the Environmental Partnership Association3 – will take place in February next year.
The winning tree was nominated by Alistair Livingstone on behalf of the LIGHT 2000 community group. Alistair said: “We’re absolutely delighted with the result. This oak has been loved by countless generations of local people, and it’s the tree that crowds continue to gather under during the Fiddler’s Green Festival – an international celebration of music and culture.
“It’s a breathtaking spot, attracting its fair share of famous residents and visitors over the years4, including great writers. It certainly inspired the Belfast-born CS Lewis, who said the view from Kilbroney Park (then known as the Meadow) overlooking Carlingford Lough was his idea of Narnia.”
A tribute, the park has its own Narnia trail, tucked away in the arboretum.
Patrick Cregg, director of the Woodland Trust, added: “We’re truly grateful to those who nominated trees, and indeed to each and every person who took the time to vote. Thanks to the public vote, we’re now delighted to announce and congratulate our winner.
“I recently visited Kilbroney Park and was overwhelmed by this much-loved oak, which guards the enchanting Fairy Glen entrance.”