Iconic tree wrecked by visitors to beauty spot

Willow tree in Barcombe Mills split after fire was lit underneath.''Doreen Pryor and Jim Smith (Ouse water bayliff)

Willow tree in Barcombe Mills split after fire was lit underneath.''Doreen Pryor and Jim Smith (Ouse water bayliff)

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An ‘iconic’ tree at a local beauty spot has been partly destroyed by the ‘crass behaviour’ of visitors.

The willow, which stands in a private field at Barcombe Mills and is familiar to gnerations of children who used it for climbing, has been split in two.

The destruction was caused by people starting fires for cooking and using its branches and bark as fuel, says local resident Doreen Prior.

“The tree has survived many major floods and storms down the years,” she said. “However, unfortunately, it has not been able to maintain its defences against the crass behaviour of a number of people.”

She said summer picknickers lighting fires to cook food was a recent development. “The misfortune is that a couple of years ago people started breaking off small branches from this lone tree and peeling off the thick, old bark on the main trunk for fire-making.

“One family had actually made a a large fire in the shade just underneath the leaning trunk – exactly where it has now split – which led others to assume they could do the same on the resultant scorched earth.”

A vulnerably bare area of the willow’s trunk was exposed and as a result became infested with fungi last autumn.

Doreen was shocked last week to find that the major part of the tree had come down as a result of the split down the middle exactly where the fire and fungi had been. She said the number of visitors to Barcombe Mills had increased phenomenally in the last few years. “It has been good to see an upsurge in families enjoying visits to the countryside,” she said. “However, in order to keep it enjoyable and free for all, it behoves everyone to follow the Countryside Code and to behave reasonably. Thankfully most of us do. Sadly a significant few nowadays just do not have a clue and assume they have a right to do as they please without regard for others.”