The Woodland Trust has embarked on its “Tree of the Year competition” for 2015. We are invited to nominate a tree that we love because it tells a story.
This set me thinking about the many weird and wonderful trees I have seen when exploring the London Loop.
An ancient oak by Warren Pond in Epping Forest comes to mind, much loved by the children who join us on our walks with its straggling roots and hollows. Then there are the willows in Bushy Park, all twisted and contorted and stretching out like tentacles.
Yet the tree that holds the most resonance for me is not nearly as striking. In fact there is not much of it left – just a stump with a fork.
It is beautiful nonetheless. Not only does it open itself up to the uplifting vistas of Keston Vale but it stands near a bench where an extraordinary conversation took place between Pitt and Wilberforce, exploring how they might instigate the abolition of slavery. Far from the immediate intrigue of Parliament and the Court and shaded by what was then a mighty oak, they could gain perspective as they sat there, opening their minds to an enlightened view of human rights that is still of huge importance today.
A young sapling now stands near the Wilberforce Oak, carrying their vision for a better future. It is this tree that I am inclined to nominate as Tree of the Year.