Former tree of the year felled in Warwickshire to make way for HS2

Residents have spoken of their “utter devastation” after a 250-year-old pear tree in Warwickshire, a famous local landmark and England’s tree of the year in 2015, was felled to make way for the HS2 rail line.

The tree, thought to be the second-oldest wild pear tree in the country, had become a focal point in the protest against HS2, a high-speed rail line that will connect London and Birmingham, and which protesters say will cause huge environmental damage.

Sarah Morgan, a local artist who grew up in Cubbington, was walking her dogs on Tuesday morning when she noticed workers starting to cut down the tree’s branches.

“I had to do a double-take. We knew it was coming, but I was just utterly devastated. I realised, it’s actually happening,” said Morgan. “I’ve had many a picnic sat under the pear tree. It was just beautiful.”

Like many in the village, she has been campaigning against the tree felling in South Cubbington wood for a decade, and the fall of the pear tree was an emotional moment. “I shed quite a few tears. It’s so heartbreaking to see and I’ve just been praying that something’s going to happen to stop it.”

“It’s absolutely devastating,” said Charlotte Griffin, a fellow campaigner and a teaching assistant who lives nearby. “That tree represented so much. It was a huge part of the community, it was a symbol, an icon, like having a famous statue or building in your neighbourhood. It’s the loss of the heritage, the landscape, biodiversity.

“It breaks my heart to be honest. I’m lost for words, really.”

A petition to stop the felling or relocate the tree garnered more than 20,000 signatures, but a response from the Department for Transport said: “HS2 Ltd explored all possible options to avoid removing the tree, but due to its age and condition, removal cannot be avoided.”

It added that more than 40 new trees have been grown from cuttings taken from the tree, and the regrown saplings would be planted in the local area, while “the stump and rooting structure will be relocated providing an opportunity for the parent tree to regrow”.

Members of the local community have also requested some of the timber be donated for them to remember the tree by.

“There’s nothing we can do about it now,” said Morgan. “No matter how much campaigning we’ve done, HS2 are still ploughing on ahead. We just carry on and hope that one day, it might get stopped.”