THE COURAGEOUS TREE
Since nominating her beloved Courageous Tree - which gave her so much inspiration in life - Sue Bond sadly died in January. Her husband Jeff is now continuing to represent Sue's nomination as a tribute to his late wife.
Vertically shattered in half by a probable lightning strike, this remarkable ash tree overlooking Coniston has been in the heart of Sue Bond for at least 20 years. 'This tree feels like an old friend and I always refer to it as The Courageous Tree' she says. 'It has beauty, courage and deserves love. It has suffered severe damage and trauma, yet it clings to life with amazing tenacity.'
For Sue, 61, a lifelong non-smoker, who is being treated for lung cancer, the tree’s inspiring lust for life acts as a potent metaphysical symbol of hope and resilience.
'I have always empathised with those needing support, recognised other people’s hurt, sorrow, injustice or mistreatment. This tree now encourages me to be tenacious and hopeful. If this tree can survive, then I have a chance too.'
The trunk is less than two inches thick in places. It is only when viewed from the lakeside that you appreciate the tree’s incredible condition, the whole trunk literally cut vertically in half and exposed to the elements with no sign of roots to support much of the structure. There are stunning swirling patterns of blackened bark awaiting an artist’s mind and skill.
Walk around it to face the lake - grey and racing on the stormy day of our visit - and you see a very different tree; a perfect trunk, normal crisp bark and powerful stretches of exposed root reaching deep into the ground like the toes of a giant dinosaur. Twenty feet and upwards from the ground, healthy branches and feathery ash leaves reach up towards the sky. On this side it is so visibly alive and thriving!
In winter, without the leaves, the tree looks old and vulnerable but spring awakens it and by summer its hidden strength and zest for life is clearly visible. In full leaf the tree trebles in height to a magnificent 61 feet.
A friend advised Sue that the tree has been surviving like this for at least 50 years, calmly marking the years with new bursts of growth despite gradually losing precious sheets of exposed outer bark on its damaged side.
Sue, who throughout her life has seen the beauty in stark trees struck by lightning, trees defying the odds by growing out of rocks and storm-felled trees sending up new shoots, feels that this ash has earned its right to be among Cumbria’s Top 50 Trees. 'Trees are often afforded accolades because of their size, colour, symmetry, beauty and overall grandeur,” she says. 'This tree is different. It is surviving against the odds. It possesses its own beauty and deserves recognition not just for what it has achieved, but for the lessons that it teaches. I will always think of it as The Courageous Tree.'
Find the treeThe tree is in a field beyond Coniston Old Hall Farm and Campsite. You reach it from the car park of Coniston Hall Camping Site by walking south for nearly half a mile over a tarmac track then turn left onto a hard core track towards a field gate. Going through the gate you'll come onto farmland, walk past trees directly along Coniston Water's shore line on your left until you see three trees in the field on your right. Two of them are healthy, the other is the Courageous Tree. If you've come to the Raymond Priestley Centre, you've walked too far.
Please note: This tree is private land.