Posted 31st January by Peter Byrne
The Woodland Trust is calling on the public to support the UK's entry in the European Tree of the Year competition
The Gilwell Oak is synonymous with the Scouting movement, with the Trust hoping that when voting opens on Thursday 1 February, the public will get behind the famous tree. The oak has already proved popular, catching the eye of a model making company which has recreated it in miniature form.
Last year, the Brimmon Oak from Wales came second in the competition, securing 16,200 votes, finishing only 1,400 shy of first spot. It is hoped the Gilwell oak will now reign supreme.
Beccy Speight, Woodland Trust Chief Executive, said: "The contest doesn’t focus on the size, age or aesthetics of a tree. Instead it focuses on how people hold it in their hearts, the story behind it and the connection it has to a wider community. The Gilwell Oak means a lot of things to a lot of people. Everyone who has been involved with the Scouting movement will have heard of it, and we think we have the best chance of winning that we’ve had for a long time."
"But it’s not just the Gilwell Oak that needs our support. Exceptional ancient woodland and trees across the country are in need of exceptional protection. The National Planning Policy Framework update is imminent. The Government has a chance to close a loophole and afford ancient woodland the same protection as manmade heritage."
The European Tree of the Year is run by the Environmental Partnership Association, with the tree that has the most public votes at the end of February winning.
The Gilwell Oak was chosen as the UK entry by a panel of experts at the Woodland Trust, following a public vote which was supported by players of People's Postcode Lottery which declared it to be England's Tree of the Year.
The Gilwell Oak is situated in Gilwell Park, Epping, the home of the scouting movement which was conceived by Robert Baden Powell. The oak was adopted by Powell as a neat analogy in 1929 for not only the growth of the scouting movement worldwide, which started as a small trial camp some 21 years earlier, but also as a message to young scouts that big things can grow from small starts.
From 1919, Baden Powell and his contemporaries collaborated to deliver some of the first adult training courses under the branches of the Gilwell Oak. These courses were designed to help volunteers to develop their leadership and youth work skills. Nowadays, the leadership training is undertaken by 10 million volunteer Scout Leaders around the world, which help the 40 million Scouts worldwide to develop their leadership, planning, teamwork and resilience skills.
The Woodbadge marks the completion of formal Scout leader training, and are so named because the wooden beads given to participants were originally carved from windfall branches of the Gilwell Oak.
Speaking as she received the model tree from Tim Feron, Managing Director of 4D Modelshop Ltd, Caroline Pantling, Heritage Service Manager at the Scout Association, said: "The Gilwell Oak sits at the centre of Gilwell Park, the spiritual home of the Scout Movement. It has witnessed the training of thousands of volunteers from around the global as they’ve cultivated their own abilities to support young people with developing key skills for life. It is the perfect symbol of how Scouting has grown from one man’s idea into a worldwide movement over the last 110 years and we hope that everyone gets voting to give it the recognition it really deserves."
You can vote here.
Image courtesy of Martyn Milner / WTML