Controversial 200-year-old tree in Rostrevor crowned Northern Ireland’s tree of the year
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Controversial 200-year-old tree in Rostrevor crowned Northern Ireland’s tree of the year

WOOD YOU believe it.

A 200-year-old Rostrevor oak tree has controversially been named Northern Ireland’s tree of the year.

The distinctive sessile oak hit the headlines earlier this year as part of a major planning dispute in the region.

Located around the entrance of Rostrevor Oak Wood in County Down, it was dubbed the “Invisible Tree” by activists after it emerged that the tree was omitted from an impact assessment for a proposed development in the region.

The development involved the construction of a nursing home and apartments complex on the location where a hotel once stood.

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Environmentalists argued it would be situated to Carlingford Lough and Rostrevor Wood which both have protected status and been designated as areas of special scientific interest.

Campaign group Rostrevor Action Respecting the Environment (RARE) have led the battle against the development and were behind the tree’s nomination entry.

“For generations the tree has greeted visitors to this magnificent woodland and provided a habitat for hundreds of species, including the welcome return of the red squirrel,” they said.

"Sadly, the existence of this tree was erased in a survey and report supporting the construction of apartment blocks and an underground car park within a few metres of its roots and branches."

The threat posed to “the Invisible Tree” sparked a widespread campaign to prevent its removal with musicians like Peggy Seeger and Moya Brennan of Clannad coming out in support and an online petition launched.

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"News of this special tree has spread far and wide, with visitors from across the world expressing their support of the campaign,” RARE said.

The tree beat five others to win the tree of the year title in a competition organised by the Woodland Trust and regional winners enter a UK-wide competition.

Ian McCurley, Woodland Trust director, said: "Thanks to the public vote, our Northern Ireland winner is Rostrevor's Invisible Tree. Our congratulations go to the Rostrevor Action Respecting the Environment group who have worked tirelessly to put their tree firmly on the map."

Despite the success, a judicial review into the decision to allow planning permission was unsuccessful, leaving the invisible tree facing an uncertain fate.

Winning this award, however, will help its chances of remaining in pride of place.