UK's oldest wild pear tree to be axed for high speed rail link

Tony Gosling tony at
Wed Jan 19 19:16:13 GMT 2011

Britain's largest wild pear tree to be axed after 
250 years... to make way for high speed rail link

By Daily Mail Reporter - Last updated at 3:12 PM on 19th January 2011

Britain's largest wild pear tree is facing the 
chop - because it stands in the middle of a proposed high-speed rail link.

The huge tree dates back 250 years and has a 
trunk measuring a staggering 12.4ft in circumference.

Despite only being 30ft high, the tree near 
Cubbington Wood on the outskirts of Leamington 
Spa, Warwickshire, is the largest wild pear tree in Britain.

But environmental campaigners are furious that 
the tree could be cut down to make way for the 
new HS2 rail line between London and the Midlands.


Facing the chop: The pear tree near Cubbington Wood, Warwickshire

The Tree Register, an organisation which 
catalogues rare trees across Britain, has now 
been given 'National Champion' status.

Planning inspectors will now have to take the new 
status into consideration - which could 
potentially derail the Government's proposed route through Warwickshire.

Steven Falk, senior keeper of natural history at 
Warwickshire Museum who sits on the Tree 
Register, said: 'The tree is exceptionally rare.

'I was called in to assess it and took pictures 
and measured its trunk, which is the real 
indication of how large and old a tree is.

'It is huge and we were able to estimate it to be 
around 200 to 250 years old. Wild pear trees are 
very rare, there are only two others in the whole of the county.'

Wild pear trees produce a small brown fruit which is not considered edible.

Mr Falk said the new status of the tree would 
form part of the planning application for the rail route.

He said: 'The tree is slap bang in the middle of 
the proposed route. There is no way it would survive it was moved.'

Members of the Cubbington Action Group against 
HS2 are now appealing to the Government to revise their plans to save the tree.

Rosemary Guiot, who helps run the group, said: 
'Everyone locally knows the tree, it's so 
spectacular when it's full of blossom.

'I just brought it to the attention of the group, 
as I suspected it might be something special.'

Ron Walton, also from the group, added: 'Sadly, 
Cubbington's newly crowned champion may not hold its title for many more years.

'It stands right in the centre of the route of 
HS2 with a group of rare wild service trees which 
flourish in the corner of the nearby wood.

'If HS2 goes ahead as planned much of the wood 
will be lost. This is ancient woodland that 
predates 1600.    'It's impossible to estimate 
how much of the wood would survive.'

Peter Delow, 62, a retired electrical engineer, 
lives close to the proposed high speed rail line 
and insisted: 'This not NIMBY-ism. It is about 
protecting a vital piece of heritage which has 
survived more than two centuries.

'We will use this information about the pear tree 
as evidence the rail line should not be built here.'

The proposed route for HS2 has been finalised and 
a public consultation process will start next month.

Natural England, a quango which advises the 
Government on environmental issues, said the tree was not protected by law.

A spokesman said: 'Unless the tree is in an Area 
of Outstanding Natural Beauty, or in a Site of 
Special Scientific Interest it will be a matter for the council.'

National charity The Campaign to Protect Rural 
England (CPRE) expressed outrage at the 
possibility of the train line 'blasting through' the tree.

John Wharam, Branch Development Manager for the 
CPRE in Warwickshire, said: 'Is cutting the time 
of a journey to London by 15 minutes really worth 
it?   'We are opposed to having a train blasting 
through the countryside and through sensitive 
environmental areas like this pear tree at 250mph.

'If the train was slowed down to 186mph - the 
same as trains on the continent - then the track 
be curved to avoid these areas.

'We are also asking whether the £30 billion it 
will cost to build this rail line would be better 
spent on regenerating the existing rail network.' 
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