Shropshire 'tree hunter' Rob branches out across Europe for contest
Shropshire 'tree hunter', Rob McBride, is on a quest to visit some very special trees across the length and breadth of Europe.
Mr McBride, from Ellesmere, campaigns for the protection of trees, particularly historic ones and those that have a story to tell.
Now he has begun his mission to visit the 13 shortlisted trees in the 2018 European Tree of the Year competition in just five weeks.
He has already travelled to Lithuania and is planning to take in the remaining trees in the next month.
Mr McBride said: "There are tree-mendous contestants in the 2018 years European Tree of the Year contest - a Eurovision for trees."
Starting his quest in Lithuania he first visited the Seimas, the Lithuanian Parliament, to meet ministers and politicians to discuss the contest and tree protection in general.
"The next day I travelled by car with the best tree hunter in Lithuania, Algis Davensis, to Vilkyskiai, close to the Russian border to see Lithuanian's stunning Witches Spruce."
"Many schoolchildren came to meet me on my visit and I learnt about the tree's amazing stories and legends."
Voting starts officially on the February 1 and ends on February 28 and is done online at treeoftheyear.org
The UK's entry is the The Gilwell Oak which is synonymous with scouting. It sits at the heart of Gilwell Park in Epping, the home of the scouting movement conceived by Robert Baden Powell. The towering oak was adopted by Powell for the growth of the scouting movement worldwide.
Other 'contestants' include the largest lime tree in Belgium that has resisted threats to its future over many years, three, 130 year old giant sequoias near the village of Bogoslov in Bulgaria and a black walnut tree planted in a park in the Czech Republic in 1790, which survived flooding 200 years later.
There is also a 500-year-old, enormous plane tree, a protected park architecture monument in Dubrovnik, Croatia. In the early 15th century, the sapling was brought from Constantinople by Captain Florio Jakob Antunov, who planted it next to a spring.
Described as a 300-year-old survivor is a Chestnut tree in Zengővárkony, Hungary and area famous far and wide for its ancient sweet chestnut-wood. The tree has healed from crustal cancer, survived nationalization after the war and even once being set on fire in a cold winter.
In Lithuania the Witches Spruce has 18 trunks giving the appearance of tangled witch’s hair. One legend says the witch's broom turned into the tree because she met a local man she liked, and forgot to fetch her broom until midnight.
Poplar Helena is a national monument in Poland, The Whistler cork oak tree in Portugal owes the name to the sound from countless birds that lay on its branches and is the largest of its kind in the world while the Russian entrant is an Oak known as the Elder of the Belgorod Forests.
There is an apple tree in Slovakia a monument of fruiterers, whose trees grow and bear fruit for over a hundred years and the Templars Elms in Spain, seven ancient elms dating back 450 years.
The oldest is the 750 year old oak in Romania dating from the time of the great Tatar invasion (1241), when all the people from the area died in battle and were buried in a common pit, at the site of which this oak was planted.