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Fears majestic ‘Tree of the Year’ winner may not survive next snowfall

Old Homer Kilbroney Park

Fears are growing for the future of an award-winning and majestic tree.

The former ‘Tree of the Year’ winner ‘Old Homer’ sits majestically in Rostrevor’s Kilbroney Park but there are concerns for the leaning tree’s future.

Independent Councillor Mark Gibbons met with Jonathan Ellis, Newry, Mourne and Down Council’s grounds maintenance manager, and tree expert Paul Clerkin to discuss the urgent need to act now before it’s too late.

The 200 year old evergreen holm oak has been showing large splits and cracks at the base of its trunk because of the overbearing weight it has had to contend with through the years.

“It is only a matter of time before it will fall to the ground if nothing is done,” said Councillor Gibbons.

“This beautiful Oak is trying its best to support itself by producing secondary growth over the last number of years with large rope-like patterns weaving around the trunk.

“This is nature’s way of trying to reinforce and pull whatever strength it has left within itself to stay upright and to stay alive.”

This heavily leaning tree has been loved by the local people for generations.

With a girth of nearly 12ft (3.6m) and a snakeskin bark, it is very distinctive because of the angle at which it leans, making it very easy for children to climb.

Said Councillor Gibbons: “I am delighted that Mr Ellis has agreed that work needs to start on saving the tree and he believes that a support would be the best option.

“I explained to him that we would be incredibly worried that the next snowfall to land on this Rostrevor gem could be its last and the safety of people first and foremost is paramount.

“We walked through Kilbroney Park and Paul and myself pointed out a number of tasks that need to be looked at to try and protect a number of ancient trees in the area and Mr Ellis was very sympathetic and understanding to our concerns.

“One of the first initiatives to start with is to save, support and secure this national and award winning treasure with a support that will be one of the first of its kind in the area-so that our children and our children’s children can enjoy Old Homer for generations to come.

“Old Homer has given people wonder, delight and excitement for over 200 years, now he needs us to lean on and hopefully we can support him for another 100 years at least.”

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