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Newtown's Brimmon Oak up for European prize

Mid Wales | News | Published:

It survived a death threat, bent the path of a bypass and is in the running to become European Tree of the Year. The 500-year-old Brimmon Oak in Newtown is one of the region's best loved trees.

It has a story that has captured the hearts and minds of people, having fought off the threat of being felled for the £56 million Newtown bypass by altering the road's route.

The historic oak at Lower Brimmon Farm has had an incredible year, with it being almost 12 months to the day since former Welsh Government minister Edwina Hart confirmed the route of the Newtown bypass would change to ensure the ancient tree's survival.

For weeks the tree has been the front-runner in the European Tree of the Year competition, but now the mid-Wales tree has slipped into third place, prompting calls from Mervyn Lloyd Jones, who lives and works on the land at the Lower Brimmon Farm, for people to get behind the tree.

He said: "This year has been an absolute dream come true. My ancestors took care of the tree so it's in good condition for future generations and I feel it's my duty to do the same, which is what I've always tried to do.

"About five years ago, we were told the tree would be chopped down to make way for the bypass, which was essentially a death threat.

"I had to do what I could to save it, even putting together my own tree report to present before the Welsh Government, but it wasn't until discovering that tree hunter Rob McBride had registered the tree with the Woodland Trust that things took a turn for the better.

Farmer Mervyn Lloyd Jones whose family own the land

"The past 12 months in particular have just been like a fairytale – it's been remarkable. We've been named Welsh Tree of the Year, UK Tree of the Year and now we could go on to be crowned European Tree of the Year.

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"I'm sure my ancestors would be delighted. My 88-year-old aunty who is with me today is, she's thrilled with how much we've achieved, but now it's just that final push. We need as many people as possible to vote for the Brimmon, with less than a week to go until voting closes."

Tree expert Rob McBride, from Ellesmere, who helped Mr Jones' campaign to protect the tree, is calling on the public to vote, if they haven't already.

He said: "The Brimmon Oak's story is a unique one, we all know that and if someone had told me before the competition that we were even in the running for European Tree of the Year I would've been delighted with that, having been named Welsh and UK Tree of the Year, but because we were in first place in the European competition for so long, we can't lose this now. We have to do this."

Mr McBride, nicknamed 'the tree hunter' has visited some of the trees vying for the European title, including Poland's Oak Józef, Slovakia's Plane tree from Budatin, Hungary's plane tree of the Jászai Mari square and the Czech Republic's lime tree at Lipka. He added: "The Brimmon is up against some really worthy competition but for people locally, our tree has something we can all shout about and feel proud of – it's history making."

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Voters have until Tuesday, February 28 to cast their votes, with the winners announced at an awards ceremony on March 21 at the European Parliament in Brussels.

Last year, the competition received more than 250,000 votes from all across Europe, with Hungary's oldest tree of Bataszek crowned the overall winner.

To vote for the Brimmon Oak, visit treeoftheyear.org

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