AS the old Scots song says, ‘Oh rowan tree, oh rowan tree, thou’lt aye be dear to me”.
Now Scotland’s Tree of the Year, a rowan dubbed “The Survivor”, has been chosen to represent Great Britain for the first time in the European Tree of the Year competition.
The rowan dubbed “The Survivor”, which stands in the Carrifran Valley near Moffat in the Borders, won a public vote run by the charity Woodland Trust to be named Scotland’s Tree of the Year in October.
Scotland’s champion has now beaten off competition from The Chapter House Tree at Port Talbot in Wales and The Happy Man Tree in Hackney, London, to be named Great British Tree of the Year 2020.
It will go forward to the European Tree of the Year competition organised by the Environmental Partnership Association, with voting to take place online across February.
An expert panel at Woodland Trust decided which tree was bound for the European competition and it is the first time the Scottish tree has been chosen to represent Britain.
“The Survivor” was once the only noticeable tree in the Carrifran Valley and was adopted as a symbol by the community group which took ownership of the land at the turn of the millennium.
The community group adopted the mission statement “Where one tree survives, a million will grow”.
Now, the once isolated tree is now surrounded by new native woodland evoking the countryside of 6000 years ago.
Fi Martynoga of Borders Forest Trust, who nominated the rowan, said: “This tree rapidly became a very important symbol of our aspirations to see this valley completely re-wooded and restored to its natural vegetation.
“In this valley alone we have planted well over 600,000 trees.
“The beauty of it is they are now beginning to reproduce themselves. It shows how you can change an environment for the better, preserve and multiply what is around.
“I hope it can stand as a symbol for other people, that they can do the same thing.”
Will Humpington, advisor for climate change & environment at People’s Postcode Lottery, which supports the British competitions, said: “I’m really pleased our players are supporting the Tree of the Year competitions, which continue to build a deeper connection between people and the nature that’s around them.
“’The Survivor’ is a terrific symbol of what can be done and what needs to be done in our landscape as we face the challenges of climate change.
“We hope its message will now make an impact across Europe and beyond.”
The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK, with over 500,000 supporters.
Established in 1972, the Trust aims to protect ancient woodland, restore damaged ancient woodland and plant native trees and woods to create resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.
It now has over 1000 sites in its care covering over 22,500 hectares, which are free to access.
The Tree of the Year competition is run by Woodland Trust with support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
Since 2014 it has celebrated the country’s best loved trees, from historic giants to those with a special local story to tell.
Until 2017, the champion trees from Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales were all put forward for the European Tree of the Year competition.
Since 2018, only one tree has been chosen to represent the nations to increase the chances of winning.
The 2021 competition is the first time Scotland’s tree of the year has been chosen.
In itself, the rowan has a long, sacred history, known as the “Tree of Life” in Celtic mythology, standing as a symbol of wisdom, courage and protection.
It is a tradition dating back through the centuries, perfor people to plant a rowan by their home, as in Celtic mythology, it is known as the “Tree of Life” and stands as a symbol of wisdom, courage and protection, with its red berries symbolically associated with drops of blood – red was believed to be a protective colour, linked to the forces of creation and life.
Rowan has a long history in folklore too, linked with witches and magic in particular, as red – regarded as a protective colour, linked to the forces of creation and life – was thought to be the best colour to ward off evil spirits.
And so rowan trees, with their bright red berries, were often planted around houses to keep inhabitants safe.
Sprigs of rowan were also carried by people to protect them from enchantments, while stirring milk with a rowan twig was thought to prevent it from curdling.
Meanwhile, the wood was often favoured for making divining rods.
Due to its protective powers in the eyes of many, it was taboo to cut down a rowan tree in Scotland.
The song “Rowan Tree” was written by Carolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne, in the 18th century. She also wrote “Weill ye no’ come back again?” and “Charlie is my darling”.