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Homer's Kilbroney odyssey

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Homer's Kilbroney odyssey thumbnailALSITAIR Livingstone of LIGHT 2000 (front left) with Patrick Cregg of the Woodland Trust.

A HOLM oak at Kilbroney Park in Rostrevor has been crowned Northern Ireland's Tree of the Year in a search for the nation's best-loved tree.

Organised by the Woodland Trust, the competition saw six splendid specimens across the country compete for public favour, with the champion securing 1,192 votes.

Northern Ireland's winner - along with the winning tree in England, Scotland and Wales - was recently revealed in a Channel 4 documentary 'Tree of the Year with Ardal O'Hanlon'.

Affectionately known as 'Old Homer', this mighty evergreen oak was planted some 200 years ago by the Ross family on, at that time, their private estate. The Ross' legacy, a mix of native and exotic specimens from all over the world, lives on in Kilbroney Park - now Council-owned and open to the public.

Almost two centuries on, this tree will represent Northern Ireland in the European Tree of the Year contest, which - run by the Environmental Partnership Association3 - will take place in February next year.

The winning tree was nominated by Alistair Livingstone on behalf of the LIGHT 2000 community group.

Alistair said: "We're absolutely delighted with the result. This oak has been loved by countless generations of local people, and it's the tree that crowds continue to gather under during the Fiddler's Green Festival - an international celebration of music and culture.

“It's a breathtaking spot, attracting its fair share of famous residents and visitors over the years4, including great writers. It certainly inspired the Belfast-born CS Lewis, who said the view from Kilbroney Park (then known as the Meadow) overlooking Carlingford Lough was his idea of Narnia."

Today, as a tribute, the park has its own Narnia trail, tucked away in the arboretum.

CS Lewis is arguably one of the most influential writers of his time with notable works including The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity and The Allegory of Love. Lewis's works have been translated into more than 30 languages and have sold millions of copies.

The books that make up The Chronicles of Narnia have sold over 100 million copies and been popularised on stage, TV, radio and cinema. Speaking of his source of inspiration, the writer who spent boyhood holidays in the village reportedly said, "That part of Rostrevor which overlooks Carlingford Lough is my idea of Narnia."

Patrick Cregg, director of the Woodland Trust, added: "We're truly grateful to those who nominated trees, and indeed to each and every person who took the time to vote. Thanks to the public vote, we're now delighted to announce and congratulate our winner.

“I recently visited Kilbroney Park and was overwhelmed by this much-loved oak, which guards the enchanting Fairy Glen entrance. I was equally taken with the beauty of the park as a whole, and by the enthusiasm of the LIGHT 2000 group. They've campaigned tirelessly and, between them, have an absolute wealth of knowledge, including when each tree in the park was planted and by whom."

The Woodland Trust's aim is to highlight and celebrate our country's remarkable trees, and to ultimately ensure they are given the recognition and protection they deserve.

The charity's V.I.Trees campaign seeks to create a register of Trees of National Special Interest throughout the UK and over 9,000 people have so far supported the call for action. For more information visit www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/campaigning

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