Cwm yr Esgob veteran oak tree shortlisted for Tree of the Year 2016

Danny Wyn Griffith

Wednesday 28 September 2016

A veteran oak tree situated on RSPB Carngafallt in Powys has been shortlisted in the Woodland Trust Tree of the Year 2016 competition, sponsored by Postcode Lottery.

Our shortlisted tree, which is believed to have stood on the site for over 500 years, stands a chance of winning the first prize 'Tree LC' package worth £1,000 whilst all shortlisted contenders that reach the 1,000 votes mark are automatically rewarded with a £500 'Tree LC' package.

The prized 'Tree LC' packages range from tree surveys and professional management, to pruning, fencing and mulching for root protection.

Imagine being 500 years old. Think of all the wonders you'd have seen. Think of all the environmental changes and technological advancements you'd have bore witness to. But imagine being alive for half a century, without ever knowing what it's like to be praised. Not one 'well done', never having felt that pat on the back. This actually stood true for a special tree of ours - until now.

Lesley Fletcher, RSPB Carngafallt Site Manager said: "I'm delighted that the tree has been shortlisted. Our veteran oak tree is amongst the largest and potentially the oldest tree on the Cwm yr Esgob ancient wood pasture. It is a fused multi-stemmed oak, which has a rowan 'air tree' - a tree growing from within without its roots touching the ground."

Our veteran oak tree, however, has had quite the unique upbringing.

In 1184, Welsh Prince Rhys of Deheubarth is known to have given the whole estate to the Cistercian monks of Strata Florida Abbey - which meant the Cwm yr Esgob name was fitting as it means 'Valley of the Bishop'.

Our tree is known to have started life as a young sapling towards the end of the monks' time around 1500AD, growing up among the large veteran oaks of their day which it has since gone on to replace.

In 1536, the Act of Union brought Wales under English law, and all the monastic lands became the property of Henry VIII. Therefore, it seems likely that our oak fell under the ownership of old Coppernose at only 50 years old.

The Cwm yr Esgob woodland holds distinct charcoal hearths as well, with many of the trees being old coppice or pollards - including our own shortlisted oak - with some of the timber being used to create charcoal without the tree being completely felled.

Nevertheless, our oak continued to thrive, and pollarding may well be one of the founding reasons it has survived to such a great age.

Piles of boulders from field clearance in Cwm yr Esgob

Photo: Peter Quelch

In the early 19th century, there was a large scale clearance of the surrounding fields to grow arable. Luckily, the wood pasture and our oak at Cwm yr Esgob were spared due to the ground's rocky nature.

In 1893, a new era began with the building of the Elan Valley dams creating large reservoirs to provide drinking water for the populace of Birmingham. Nearly a century onwards in 1985, the Elan Valley visitor centre opened and hosted growing numbers of visitors.

The woodlands and ancient wood pasture were bought by RSPB in 1990, creating our Carngafallt reserve as we now know it today. It is recognised for its outstanding variety of species and has since been recognised for this by being made a protected area.

Lesley added: "Our exceptional shortlisted veteran oak tree is part of a special landscape and an extra special woodland. It is home to a wealth of woodland birds, including lesser spotted woodpeckers, tree pipits and pied flycatchers, as well as assemblages of lichens, bryophytes and saproxilic (dead wood) invertebrates. The tree itself is covered in epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants) and rare lichens such as Calicium salicinum, and is home to some noteworthy beetles such as the uncommon 'inquisitor'. Our tree is a whole mini ecosystem in itself, which has grown over the ages."

Now, let us all show our appreciation for one of RSPB Cymru's eldest members. The time has come for it to be given the plaudits it deserves and we call on you to place your vote between 19 September and 9 October by heading to - https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/tree-of-the-year/.

Tagged with: Country: Wales Topic: Getting involved