I was walking with the Over 50’s YHA group when I found out about the Lonely Tree of Llanfyllin. We were staying at Llanfyllin Workhouse Bunkhouse and had set off on a walk along the empty footpaths that meander around the rivers and hills of this beautiful landscape.
There were spring lambs skipping around and the horizon was strangely reminiscent of sleeping dragons. It was great to be in Wales.
We came across a sign pointing into a wood, saying “Lonely Tree”. The lack of explanation was a challenge, so a party split off to investigate with a plan to meet up at Llanfyllin where a coffee morning was promising home made cake.
It was a sharp climb into the wood, through and then up beyond the wood to the top of a very treeless hill. Here another sign led us along the ridge and still no sign of a tree. We began to wonder if this was some joke to keep visitors fit and then we found the tree, horizontal and dead, but with a sign proclaiming it to be WELSH TREE OF THE YEAR 2014
So not much of an explanation but what a beauty spot these signs had led us to. We were at the highest point for miles around with views on three sides and slopes so steep you felt you could reach down and pick up the buildings in the town below. The walk back down was just as stunning and the home made cake well worth the walk.
At the coffee morning at Llanfillan Institute we mentioned our walk to the lady serving coffee and she exclaimed with delight “Oh we used to love visiting the Lonely Tree when I was a girl, such a shame it blew down in the spring gales of 2014”. So that was my idea that the Lonely Tree was a just for visitors dispelled, but it still struck me as odd. It sounds like the tree blew down in the spring of the the year it was “Welsh Tree of the Year”.
A bit more investigation reveals a story of a local landmark and the attempt to save it. Locals brought 50 tonnes of soil up that steep steep hill, to keep the roots of the fallen tree from drying out. Hundreds visited the site to pay their respect and donations were sent from around the world by Welsh expats.
Despite all this goodwill the tree was not saved, but that was not stopping anyone. It was entered into the competition to be Welsh Tree of the Year the October after it blew over, and won! Then a year later (still horizontal and definitely dead) it was entered into the European Tree of the Year competition. This is a story of community endeavour, tenacity and wishful thinking. It only needs a Hollywood ending to finish the tale.
I would really recommend a visit to this very real and amazingly beautiful part of Wales and what better place to stay then in the Workhouse! This community run hostel provides self catering, warmth and beds ready to sleep in for £15 a night. You don’t need to be with a group to visit, although it probably helps to have a few friends around for good company in the quieter months. You can find out more about the Bunkhouse at the Workhouse here.
The workhouse has a museum on sight which is open most of the time and free to look around and the local community couldn’t be more friendly. I would especially recommend a visit to see the Lonely Tree.