By Iain Watts and Kerry Elsworth
A majestic oak which could be more than 1,000 years old and was climbed by JOHN LENNON has been crowned England’s tree of the year – and is now worth £500,000.
Liverpool’s lofty Allerton Oak, which stands in the city’s Calderstones Park and was once home to a medieval court, has been crowned champion of the Woodland Trust’s annual contest.
According to legend, in medieval times the ‘Hundred Court’ would meet under the branches of the 35ft-high tree as they lacked a courthouse.
Allerton is mentioned in William the Conqueror’s Domesday book of 1086, and experts believe it is possible the Sessile oak was already growing by then although other estimates suggest it is more likely to be 500 to 600 years old.
It is also believed John Lennon, who grew up in nearby Woolton, climbed the tree’s boughs as a youngster.
Jon Warren, 64, lead gardener at Calderstones Park, has been working as a guardian of the tree since he was 16 years old.
He said: “I’ve been here a long time, but it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the lifespan of the tree.
“When I first started working here, there were still some of the gardeners that had been here at the time of the Second World War and they told me during the war, they sent leaves from the tree to the Liverpool men fighting on the front line.
“I’m not much of a believer in some of the legends behind the tree and the other myths, but that is the most heartwarming true story I know about it.
“As a boy John Lennon lived close by and also played in the park, so he would have climbed it without a doubt.
“The tree is Liverpool’s oldest citizen and it’s without a doubt my favourite tree in the park.
“It’s fantastic that it has won this accolade because these days I think many people don’t know it exists so it will be lovely to see more people discover it.”
The value of the oak has been conservatively estimated at more than half a million pounds.
It is also a wildlife haven, with its canopy providing a home to tawny owls, spotted doves, woodpeckers and hairstreak butterflies.
Adam Cormack, head of campaigning at The Woodland Trust, said: “The Allerton Oak is a spectacular example of a city tree.
“It has stood in Calderstones Park for centuries and has an intriguing story.
“Trees are an important part of the urban landscape helping to make our towns and cities better places to live.
“We are keen to increase understanding of their value and promote their protection.”
It is believed the large crack down the side of the tree was formed in 1864 when the Lotty Sleigh, a ship carrying 11 tonnes of gunpowder, exploded with the ensuing shockwave smashing thousands of windows through Liverpool, and heard more than 30 miles away.
The tree, which today is fenced off to protect it with its heavy boughs are supported by metal poles installed in the 1990s, received 34 per cent of the 11,000 votes cast.
After beating off competition from other illustrious trees such as Colchester Castle’s Sycamore and the Isle of Wight’s Dragon Tree, it will now go on to represent the UK in the European Tree of the Year awards in February 2020.
Liverpool City Council is now set to invest a further £80,000 in a new propping mechanism to sustain the oak’s lifespan long term.
TV gardener David Domoney said: “The entrants this year have been outstanding and illustrate perfectly the unique nature of our native trees.
“The Allerton Oak from Liverpool is a worthy winner, from its historical links to the Domesday book, to the local legends of how the crack in its side appeared.
“I wish the tree the best of luck as it enters the European Tree of the Year competition. Please vote for the British tree.”