A trio of beeches grafted into an N-shape to woo a sweetheart named Nellie in Leeds is going up against trees across Europe in a bid to win European Tree of the Year. The public are being urged to get behind Nellie’s tree, which convincingly won the nationwide contest to find the UK Tree of the Year in the autumn, as it competes with winners from 14 other countries for the Europe-wide crown.

The tree’s unusual shape was created nearly 100 years ago by Vic Stead, who walked along the old colliery railway from his home in Garforth, near Leeds, to visit Nellie, the young woman he was courting who lived in nearby Aberford. When one day he came across three beech saplings on his route, he grafted one sapling between the other two to form the letter “N” in an attempt to woo his sweetheart.

The romantic gesture worked, with Vic and Nellie going on to marry and have a family. Though they are now gone, Nellie’s tree, which is also known as the love tree by locals, remains and is a popular place for lovers to pop the question. The Woodland Trust is asking people to vote for Nellie’s tree in the European Tree of the Year competition as it goes up against the likes of the Czech Republic’s lime tree of liberty, France’s bird-tree and Poland’s kneeling tree.

“We love our trees in the UK but we have to protect them from needlessly being cut down in our towns and cities, and it is especially true of our important trees that have been around for decades – they must be saved for many future generations to enjoy.

“Now let’s see how our British tree can fare in Europe. “Help us to make Nellie’s tree the winner of the European Tree of the Year awards so we can join the chorus in Europe to demand better recognition for the important role of trees.”