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Villagers try to save attacked tree

PUBLISHED: 19:00 24 December 2001 | UPDATED: 15:22 03 March 2010

EXPERTS today vowed to try and save a beautiful village oak tree after it was attacked with an axe in a deliberate attempt to secretly destroy it.

To the untrained eye the young oak tree in Harkstead on the Shotley Peninsula looks to be weathering the winter like any other.

EXPERTS today vowed to try and save a beautiful village oak tree after it was attacked with an axe in a deliberate attempt to secretly destroy it.

To the untrained eye the young oak tree in Harkstead on the Shotley Peninsula looks to be weathering the winter like any other.

But on closer inspection a half inch deep cut around its trunk reveals a different story.

Undoubtedly carried out by somebody who knew what they were doing, the gouge forms a complete circle around the tree, cutting off its supply of nutrients and putting it under a death sentence.

"The whole village is up in arms about it," said tree warden Julian Scales. "Whoever did it was aware that they were going to kill it.

"It might be okay in winter but come spring it won't be able to carry nutrients from the ground. It's like cutting the veins off a human being."

An operation to patch the gap up with pieces of bark grafted from elsewhere on the tree will be carried out over the next few days but there is no guarantee of success.

Planted on a grass verge at the corner of Church Lane and River View Road, the tree is the pride and joy of friends Evie Rayson and May Ardern, who found it as a sapling and nursed it through its early years.

"It's a beautiful little tree and a beautiful shape," said Mrs Rayson, 71, of Walnut Tree Lane.

"I don't know who would want to chop it like but I hope they feel sorry they did it. It's like a slap in the face."

While the fast growing leylandii, notorious for blocking light from homes and causing fiery neighbourhood disputes, has more than its fair share of enemies, the stately oak is usually more respected.

It is not the first however that the slow growing tree, which can survive for hundreds of years, has come under attack in the county.

In February this year vandals came close to destroying a 73-year-old royal oak in Bourne Park, Ipswich when they set upon it with at axe.

Emergency surgery was carried out, including reducing and reshaping it by 50 per cent, so that it could support it's own weight as new tree tissue grew over the deep wound.


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