Felling of historic Hellingly tree is a disgrace

The 300-year-old Scots pine tree in Hellingly churchyard
The 300-year-old Scots pine tree in Hellingly churchyard

I am sure I am not alone among the residents of Hellingly, and those who know the village and its historic churchyard, to be shocked and appalled at the wilful destruction of one of its most handsome trees, a 300-year-old, 35-metre tall, Scots Pine.

The Wealden Council wood butchers were summoned when a branch (small and light enough for me to drag out of the way of anyone visiting the churchyard) broke off the tree about three weeks ago – hardly an unusual event in January storms.

The reasons given for this latest brutal felling have been predictable. ‘Health and Safety’, ‘diseased’, ‘dangerous’, which are as ludicrous as they are untrue. Who are these vandals? Not the three wretched butchers with their chainsaws but those who have a duty of care to protect our heritage and preserve the environment in this ancient churchyard.

The tree was home to nesting jackdaws, woodpeckers, nuthatches, a wide range of other birds, insects, squirrels and small mammals.

It took just two days for it to be murdered after three centuries of steady growth culminating in a glorious pine-leaved canopy providing an annual harvest of sweet-smelling fir cones. Only a ground level stump now remains. The perfectly sound pine logs, none of which showed any sign of disease or decay, were taken away in a truck.

‘Save the environment’, we hear. ‘Preserve our trees’ is a world wide rallying call. Except in Hellingly. Those responsible should hang their heads in shame. But they won’t. Because, except for many like me who value our hugely important and irreplaceable countryside, not least its trees, they could not care less.

Roger Paine