Help make Southernhay URC oak a Tree of the Year winner

Last Updated on 19 September 2023 by Ann-Marie Nye

A tree outside Southernhay United Reformed Church in Exeter has been shortlisted among the nation’s top ten favourite trees, and needs your vote!

The Tree of the Year awards takes place annually and is organised by The Woodland Trust.

The winner will be announced on 19 October.

The Holm Oak blitz tree outside Southernhay is not ancient but has an extraordinary history.

During the Second World War, on 4 May 1942, 20 bombers flew over Exeter in the middle of the night and devastated the city in little more than an hour.

Much of the landscape and many buildings were destroyed.

Southernhay URC in Dix’s Field, was among the buildings that suffered extensive damage, but the oak tree, which stands mere feet from the church’s front door, amazingly survived.

Since that time, the tree is admired by locals for its resilience and is seen as a symbol of hope and strength.

The Revd Jayne Taylor, Minister of Southernhay URC, said: “Being new to Exeter I hadn’t fully appreciated the destruction it had experienced, and the reconstruction it had undergone after the Second World War. Indeed the Southernhay church itself was demolished, apart from its spire.

“Subsequently, a new church was built, incorporating the spire, and a large part of the centre of Exeter was developed into a modern shopping precinct. In amongst all the destruction and rebuilding, the Holm Oak remained and continues to stand proud as a monument linking the past, present and the future of Exeter.

“Truly a living symbol of divine hope in times of trouble.”

Vote for the tree outside Southernhay URC.

Learn more about Tree of the Year awards.


Image: Simon Pryor/Woodland Trust.