Tree of the Year 2023: Sheffield tree 'saved' from felling shortlisted for Woodland Trust award

The tree was saved by campaigners after being earmarked for the chop during the council's 2017 felling programme.

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A historic Elm tree in Sheffield has been shortlisted for the 2023 Tree of the Year, six years after it was destined to be cut down by the city council.

The 128-year-old tree, found on Chelsea Road in Nether Edge, is said to have a number of special qualities, which helped secure it a place on the Woodland Trust's shortlist.

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The trust said: "Unknowing passers-by might not give this mature street tree a second glance, but it’s one of the UK’s most famous elms.

"Fewer than 1,000 elms still stand after Dutch elm disease sadly wiped out over 60 million of them, but this tree is fortunately resistant. This alone makes it special, but it’s also home to the white-letter hairstreak butterfly, a species that has declined 93 per cent since the 1970s."

The Woodland Trust also claim the tree has been "earmarked for the chop" several times, including during Sheffield City Council's 2017 tree-felling programme. The tree, which has a girth of 2.8 metres, was reportedly saved by local campaigners during the programme, because they saw the white-letter hairstreak butterfly laying eggs on it.

This Elm tree on Chelsea Road in Nether Edge, Sheffield has been shortlisted for the 2023 Tree of the Year by the Woodland Trust. (Photo courtesy of the Woodland Trust/Philip Formby)This Elm tree on Chelsea Road in Nether Edge, Sheffield has been shortlisted for the 2023 Tree of the Year by the Woodland Trust. (Photo courtesy of the Woodland Trust/Philip Formby)
This Elm tree on Chelsea Road in Nether Edge, Sheffield has been shortlisted for the 2023 Tree of the Year by the Woodland Trust. (Photo courtesy of the Woodland Trust/Philip Formby)

Paul Selby, a Sheffield Tree Action Group (STAG) member who was the driving force behind saving the tree, said: "I'm pleasantly surprised. I didn't think it was eligible to be in the competition having came second in 2016.

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"If it has a genuine chance to win again it is great. I'm really pleased."

In 2016, Paul contacted Sheffield City Council about sparing the Elm, due to its rarity, but he said his appeal was denied. He then coordinated a protest to save the famous tree, which attracted about 100 people on the day Amey was due to bring it down.

He said the council tried again in 2018, but were prevented by another protest, before a then-confidential deal was made between the council, Amey and Paul to spare it.

"I was sworn to secrecy," Paul told The Star, "but it has since been made public."

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The Woodland Trust's panel of experts have shortlisted 12 "fascinating" urban trees for the award - as well as one additional entry voted for by the public. The winner of the competition will represent the UK in the European Tree of the Year competition.

Voting for the award is now open until Sunday, October 15. Votes can be cast online and the winner will be announced on Thursday, October 19, 2023.