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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Patrick Barkham

Wrexham’s 480-year-old sweet chestnut crowned tree of the year

The sweet chestnut tree in Acton Park, Wrexham
The chestnut tree in Acton Park, where the local council hosted a party last month to celebrate the tree being nominated for the award. Photograph: Hannah Farnell/The Woodland Trust

A 480-year-old sweet chestnut that has withstood storms, firewood collectors and, increasingly, parties and picnics beneath its boughs has been crowned tree of the year.

The stately ancient tree in Wrexham’s Acton Park fought off competition from 10 other urban trees in the Woodland Trust competition, which this year highlighted city trees which are widely enjoyed by the public but are often still vulnerable to destruction.

Previous winners include the Sycamore Gap tree (2016) beside Hadrian’s Wall which was felled last month, as well as the Cubbington Pear in Warwickshire (2015), which was chopped down to make way for the HS2 rail line.

Wrexham’s much-loved tree has been showering people with sweet chestnuts since the reign of Henry VIII, and has survived many challenges, including people plundering the park for firewood in the 1940s and numerous storms, including one in 2021 which blew down neighbouring trees.

The 24-metre high tree, which won 17% of the vote, is appreciated by many people and celebrated by the local council, which hosted a party for it this month.

Hugh Jones, lead member of Wrexham county borough council’s environment and technical department, said the council was delighted with its victory.

“We would like to thank the people of Wrexham and the wider population who took the time to vote,” he said. “It goes to show that the Wrexham sweet chestnut has inspired people for so many years and is now getting some well-deserved recognition.”

Rob McBride, a tree campaigner who lives nearby, visited the tree last weekend and found it busy with admirers and chestnut collectors. He said: “Wrexham has had a torrid time since the 1970s with heavy industry closing. This is showing – along with the football – how nature and leisure can reinvigorate a community.”

After a Surrey yew won the competition last year, the Crouch Oak in the same county came second this year with 14% of the vote. It is famed for reputedly having hosted a picnic for Queen Elizabeth I underneath its copious canopy.

Another sweet chestnut in Greenwich Park, planted at the request of King Charles II after he took the throne in 1660, polled 13% of votes.

Jack Taylor, of the Woodland Trust, said the Wrexham sweet chestnut was a worthy winner. “The sweet chestnut in Wrexham’s Acton Park is a symbol of resilience in the city having survived many storms and other threats,” he said. “This almost 500-year-old giant is celebrated and loved by locals for its beauty and history and it now has the claim to fame of being a tree of the year winner. A true icon!”

The Wrexham tree will now represent Britain in the European tree of the year competition.

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