Public urged to vote for Scouting oak to win Europe-wide tree contest

The public is being urged to vote for a tree which symbolises the Scouting movement to secure a UK win in a Europe-wide competition.

The Woodland Trust is calling on people to support the Gilwell Oak, Essex, before voting closes at the end of February in a bid to win the European Tree of the Year award.

The oak tree stands in Gilwell Park, Epping, the home of the Scouting movement conceived by Robert Baden-Powell.

Baden-Powell adopted the oak as an analogy in 1929 not only for the growth of the movement worldwide, which had begun with a small trial camp some 21 years earlier, but also as a message to Scouts that big things are possible from modest starts.

The Gilwell Oak is synonymous with the Scouting movement (Martyn Milner Photography/Woodland Trust/PA)
The Gilwell Oak is synonymous with the Scouting movement (Martyn Milner Photography/Woodland Trust/PA)

From 1919, Baden-Powell and his contemporaries created and delivered some of the first adult leader training courses under its branches, and they have grown into training undertaken by the world's 10 million volunteer Scout leaders.

The oak was chosen by a panel of experts to represent the UK in the European competition, from the winning trees of the year for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland which were voted for by the public.

The Gilwell Oak is currently fourth place in the competition, behind Portugal, Russia and Spain, and the Woodland Trust hopes a push by UK voters - especially those with a Scouting connection - could see it win the top spot.

Last year, Wales's Brimmon Oak came second in the competition behind the entry from Poland.

Beccy Speight, Woodland Trust chief executive, said: "The contest doesn't focus on the size, age or aesthetics of a tree.

"Instead it focuses on how people hold it in their hearts, the story behind it and the connection it has to a wider community.

"The Gilwell Oak means a lot of things to a lot of people. Everyone who has been involved with the Scouting movement will have heard of it, and we hope local Scout, Cub and Beaver unit leaders and the families of their young people will get online and cast their vote for this magnificent tree."

Caroline Pantling, heritage service manager at the Scout Association, said: "The Gilwell Oak sits at the centre of Gilwell Park, the spiritual home of the Scout movement.

"It has witnessed the training of thousands of volunteers from around the global as they've cultivated their own abilities in order to support young people with developing key skills for life.

"It is the perfect symbol of how Scouting has grown from one man's idea into a worldwide movement over the last 110 years and we hope that everyone gets voting to give it the recognition it really deserves."

The public vote for the UK Tree of the Year was supported by the People's Postcode Lottery, whose country director Annemiek Hoogenboom said: "We hope as many people as possible will take the time to vote for this marvellous tree, with such an inspiring history.

"The Scouting movement has had an international impact so it is time to give its tree the international platform it deserves."

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