Dave Jones first heard about the striking birch that stands in Llyn Padarn, a lake in Snowdonia, from his classmates on a local photography course. As lockdown restrictions eased, he decided to visit the tree to get some shots of it. “Everybody kept going on about it,” he said. “So we went and found it. Sure enough, there were four other photographers there.”

Jones, who lives a 45-minute drive away in Rhyl with his wife, Dawn, was stunned by the setting, but had to stay for several hours until the light was right. “I was waiting for the clouds to come and it was all backlit,” he says. “It’s got a beautiful backdrop. It’s about 20 yards out into the lake and it’s grounded in the water.”

The birch is about 18ft tall and Jones, 53, thinks it is unlikely to grow any more. “There’s a lack of soil. Obviously, it’s got plenty of fluids, but not so many nutrients. So I don’t think it’s ever going to get any bigger.”

He is also worried that the tree is becoming a victim of its own success, with some visitors swimming out to pose next to it. A branch recently fell off and Jones isn’t sure how it was damaged. “People should just leave it alone. It’s wrong. We should look after what we’ve got.”

Jones enjoys the tree’s contradictory existence. “It’s called the lonely tree, but it’s anything but lonely. You can go there any day of the week, and you will find people either looking at it or taking pictures of it. There’s a local kayak shop around the corner and people go kayaking around it.”

But what he loves most about it is how it unites everyone. ‘”If there wasn’t a tree there, then I doubt anybody would be there taking pictures of the area. They’d all be in the slate mines or in the nearest castle.”

o This article was amended on 19 October 2020 because the tree is not a Scots pine, as an earlier version said. This has been corrected to birch.


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