Towering hillsides on Offa's Dyke Path

The Oak at the Gate of Dead, Guest blog, by Rob McBride AKA The Tree Hunter

3rd December 2013


Last survivor of the battle of Crogen makes bid for European stardom Seven months after Wales’ most iconic oak trees, the Pontfadog Oak, was blown down in a storm, one of its neighbours, the Oak at the Gate of the Dead, in the Ceiriog Valley, has been entered into the European Tree of the Year Award by the Woodland Trust (Coed Cadw).

This is an annual contest run at European level. It aims to find not the oldest, the tallest, the biggest, the most beautiful or the rarest of trees.

The aim is to identify the most lovable tree, a tree with a story that can bring the community together.

The Oak at the Gate of the Dead has now been nominated as 2014 Welsh entrant.

People across Europe will have the opportunity to vote for this tree, or others, from February 2014 at the website In 1165 an invading English army was ambushed by Welsh forces in the wooded Ceiriog Valley. A brutal battle ensued and the dead were buried nearby, at the ‘Gap of the Graves’, or Adwy’r Meirwon in Welsh.

The only living witness to this battle, the battle of Crogen, is this oak tree. Standing where it does, by a public highway, on the Offa’s Dyke Path and on the site of a famous battle, it is a well-known landmark and much valued by the local community. It is now something of a celebrity, having featured on many TV programmes. It even has its own Facebook page, one of the first trees in the world to do so! The tree is believed to be around 1000 years old and it stands at Castle Mill near Chirk, next to the B4500 at grid reference SJ 265 376.

One person who has done more than most to draw the attention to the this particular tree is Rob McBride. Rob is a volunteer for the Woodland Trust’s successful Ancient Tree Hunt project, that has recorded over 110,000 ancient and notable trees around the UK. Rob has taken scores of local people and visitors to visit this tree, including Julia Bradbury from the BBC’s Countryfile programme. Local historian Mark Williams has researched the

battle of Crogen for over 20 years. He often gives impromptu talks to

visitors at the great oak.

Rob says: "One of the most amazing things about this tree is its location.

It’s stands on Offa’s Dyke, at the gateway to the Ceiriog Valley, on the site of the Battle of Crogen and just below Chirk Castle. It’s also the younger cousin of the Pontfadog oak that we lost so sadly in April. If the entry of the tree into the competition helps persuade everyone, including the Welsh Assembly, that we need to look after our ancient trees better, then I’ll be well satisfied."

This is the first time that a Welsh tree has been nominated in the competition. The Oak at the Gate of the Dead will be up against trees from at least eight countries including France, Ireland, Scotland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. The winning tree will be announced at an awards ceremony in Brussels in June.

The Woodland Trust in Wales will be launching a nationwide search for the nation’s next entry in March 2014. Wales’ Tree of the Year will be open to any individual tree that has a great story to tell. That tree will be entered into the European Tree of the Year award for 2015.

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