The photograph below records a personal first for me …
… the first time that I have able to pose with a winner’s trophy. Not that I can claim to be the winner, although my name does appear on the trophy as nominator of the first-placed tree in the England’s Tree of the Year 2015 competition, which is, of course, Cubbington’s veteran pear tree. The people joining me in this group celebration are members of the tireless band who are responsible for managing and fundraising for our local action group opposing the HS2 project. This competition, which was decided by a public on-line ballot, was organised by the Woodland Trust last autumn, with the support of players of People’s Postcode Lottery (see footnote). Similar contests were held to decide the winning trees for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
A couple of weeks before the photograph was taken Chris Hickman of the Woodland Trust had taken the considerable trouble to visit Cubbington to present the trophy to the Chair of our parish council; as I had only communicated with Chris by telephone and e-mail before his visit, it was a considerable pleasure to meet him face-to-face.
I must confess that I was somewhat taken aback by the magnificence of the object that he presented, which had been hand-crafted in Scotland using oak and elm timber from trees that had to be felled because of disease. I was also pleasantly surprised that we get to keep it forever, so it will serve as a permanent reminder of our tree if, as is looking increasingly likely, we do lose it to HS2. The intention is to keep the trophy on public display, shared between a number of venues around our village, and to take it along to meetings of village groups so that as many of our residents as possible get to see it in the next few weeks.
The Cubbington tree, along with the winners of the competitions for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, is now a candidate for the European Tree of the Year competition, organised by the Environmental Partnership Association. Like the English competition, the European Tree of the Year will be selected by public on-line ballot, which will run throughout February.
Whilst Cubbington representing England in an international competition is exciting and a reason to be proud of our tree, it does bring with it the pressure to do well in the contest – after all, national pride is at stake here. Whilst I was very encouraged by the tremendous support that the Cubbington tree attracted in the home contest, with the three thousand votes it gained representing one in three of those cast, I am very conscious that last year’s European Tree of the Year was elected with about fifty thousand votes. So we need to do more than ten times better this time. As campaigners in other European countries have a phrase to describe environmentally-disastrous, money sinks like the HS2 project, which translates to “useless imposed mega-projects”, I feel assured that our appeal for votes will reach many a sympathetic ear across Europe and know that Stop HS2 will be working hard to mobilise this potential support.
I feel that the stakes have suddenly got a lot higher. If we are to keep the pressure on the Government to make HS2 more environmentally-friendly, then it is important for the Cubbington tree to do well in the European contest. If our entry bombs, then I feel that much of the good work of winning the home contest will be undone.
Although we won’t be able to do well without attracting a large number of votes from other countries, we also need to mobilise, and increase, our home support. So, if you voted for the Cubbington tree in the England’s Tree of the Year competition, please be sure to vote for it again in the new contest. Please also do your very best to encourage others, who may not have voted first time, to support our entry this time.
The e-poll runs until the end of this month, and you can vote for our tree here.
The Cubbington Action Group against HS2 wish to make it clear that there is no truth in the rumours that they are also planning to enter a song in the Eurovision Song Contest, despite there being an obvious contender.
Footnote: My reasons for nominating the tree for the competition are set out in my blog Cubbington goes national (posted 23 Sep 2015). My reactions to our tree’s victory may be found in And the winner is … (posted 10 Nov 2015).