Now I’m thinking about it, the area of which I was born and raised is steeped in alleged paranormal folklore history. The ancient pub where I purchased my ‘first official’ pint is apparently haunted by the daughter of an old patron; the first ‘A road’ I drove on after passing my driving test is seemingly visited by a ghostly heartbroken murdered lover; and the old aerodrome, which was one of the three strategic airports in the Battle of Britian, is sadly said to hold the souls of the many brave men and women who passed there during WW2. Coincidentally, it was also right next to the house where I spent most of my adolescent years.
You may be thinking that documenting the paranormal activity around the small town of Caterham is a odd place to begin an entry to the tree of the year award competition and in most circumstances you’d be correct. However, my favourite tree, one that i have been in awe of since my primary school years, is perhaps one of the most mystical, inspiring and evil trees in the UK. The specimen in question is the truly stout Lebanese Cedar (Cidris Leboni) which has dominated the high street of Caterham on the Hill throughout the last two hundred and fifty years.
Said to have been bought back as a sapling to Caterham from Lebanon by a local merchant traveller, the tree is surrounded in somewhat negative connotations. As a young boy my primary school was just around the corner and it was necessary to go underneath it to get to the local park for our P.E lessons in the summer term. It was then common place (and still may be) in the warmer months to see groups of young school children seemingly trying to traverse the tree’s branch diameter at great speed whilst holding their breaths. This act of great sporting endurance was necessary to avoid catching a deadly curse that a witch had placed on the tree many years ago, whereby anyone who inhaled the air under the Cedar would be in great peril!
The fact that I still try to hold my breath as a 25 year old man as I go under the woody plant highlights the impression that the majestic tree left with me. Nowadays, i more frequently than not am cunningly driving under its sprawling reach so admittedly its slightly easier to pass uncursed. Today however, I also appreciate what a specimen it is. A height of 11 metres supported by a girth of 5 this urban giant helps to transport you back to a time where the high road may have been less of a tarmacked ocean and more a mud and straw pond. Its presence continues to be felt in the community whereby year upon year it is the site of the town Christmas light ceremony, a monument for local artists and a way point for the a nearby traveller.
In considering the fact that I have travelled around the world and have seen many trees and now volunteer for the Woodlands trust (I like trees and stuff) and i still rate this one so highly must mean its pretty good, right? Also, seeing as I don’t actually live in Caterham anymore but still have these fond memories of the cedar means a lot to me and is the reason why I am nominating this giant for tree of the year.
If you have a favourite tree that you would like to nominate for the Woodland trust tree of the year award or just to find out more about the work we do just follow this link or send me a message!
Photos taken from panoramio.com/user/728186?