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‘Old Homer’ set to compete with best in Europe

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

‘Old Homer’ set to compete with best in Europe thumbnailAlistair Livingstone, Caitriona Ruane and Tommy Sands are among those supporting a County Down oak tree’s efforts to win the European Tree of the Year competition.

A REMARKABLE County Down oak, recently crowned Northern Ireland's best-loved tree, is now competing for votes in the European Tree of the Year contest.

The holm oak, a mighty evergreen oak in Rostrevor's Kilbroney Park, secured the title of Northern Ireland's Tree of the Year in a competition organised by the Woodland Trust; and was unveiled in a Channel 4 documentary Tree of the Year with Ardal O'Hanlon last December.

It now faces stiff competition from 15 other trees from as far away as Bulgaria. Run by the Environmental Partnership Association, the European verdict is simple - the tree with the most public votes at the end of February will win.

The 200-year-old oak, affectionately and locally known as 'Old Homer', was nominated by Alistair Livingstone on behalf of LIGHT 2000 community group.

Alistair said: "This tree has been well-loved by generations of locals and visitors who have gathered under its huge canopy for festivals and more. We've worked hard to put 'Old Homer' in the spotlight, and indeed we're determined to encourage an appreciation of the many remarkable trees within this park. We really hope that members of the public will make their mark by way of a simple vote."

Patrick Cregg, director of the Woodland Trust, added: "Centuries-old, this striking natural landmark reaches out to visitors at Kilbroney's Fairy Glen entrance. And, while it distinctively leans at an angle, this oak is standing tall for all of Northern Ireland's amazing, unsung trees.

“We're appealing to everyone - right across the country - to take a second to vote and give 'Old Homer' the backing he deserves."

Today, Kilbroney Park is owned by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, and is freely open to all. It has, over the centuries, enjoyed its fair share of famous owners and visitors. And, with breath-taking views overlooking Carlingford Lough, is said to have inspired CS Lewis' magical land of Narnia. The Trust hopes that the Belfast-born writer "would have been proud" of his boyhood haunt's recent achievement.

The Woodland Trust wants to see greater protection for our notable trees. More than 9,000 people throughout the UK have so far supported the charity's V.I.Trees campaign, which calls for a register of Trees of National Special Interest.

To give the holm oak the European vote, head to www.treeoftheyear.org Voting ends on 28 February.

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