Northern Ireland

Rostrevor's 'Invisible Tree' wins Northern Ireland award

People's hands on the "Invisible Tree" Image copyright Michael Cooper
Image caption The "Invisible Tree" is at the entrance to Rostrevor Oak Wood in County Down

A 200-year-old oak tree at the centre of a planning dispute has been crowned Northern Ireland's tree of the year.

The sessile oak at the entrance to Rostrevor Oak Wood in County Down - a protected area - had become a cause celebre for environmentalists.

It was dubbed the "Invisible Tree" after its existence was not mentioned in an impact assessment linked to a proposed development in the area.

It beat five other trees to win the tree of the year title with 950 votes.

The competition is organised by the Woodland Trust and regional winners enter a UK-wide competition.

The campaign group that championed the tree was congratulated by Ian McCurley, the director of the Woodland Trust.

"Rostrevor Action Respecting the Environment group (RARE)... worked tirelessly to put their tree, and indeed trees in general, firmly on the map," he said.

'Its existence was erased'

When it nominated the tree RARE said the fact that it had been overlooked had resulted in a spotlight being shone upon it.

"For generations the tree has greeted visitors to this magnificent woodland and provided a habitat for hundreds of species, including the welcome return of the red squirrel," it said.

"Sadly, the existence of this tree was erased in a survey and report supporting the construction of apartment blocks and an underground car park within a few metres of its roots and branches."

In recent months prominent performers like singers Peggy Seeger and Moya Brennan of Clannad have voiced their support for the tree.

The planned nursing home and apartments complex that was at the centre of the dispute was approved by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.

A subsequent judicial review of the decision was unsuccessful.

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