HS2 and 'Tree of the year'

Image Credit: HS2 Rebellion
How many people does it take to kill a tree?

Why did an ancient pear tree have to be killed?

I was quite astounded when I read today that a 250 year-old tree in Warwickshire was felled by workers acting for the Department for Transport. In a short article by The Guardian, residents mourned the loss of the former 'Tree of the year', a title which did little to stop its' removal for the sake of saving 20 minutes off a rail journey.

The article was accompanied by a photo of its' demise as 13 people wearing jaunty orange outfits and capped with little white hard-hats watched a man hack away the top-most branches. I have to assume that the 13 watchers were not there to offer emotional support but rather as private security to the axeman.

The wild pear-tree, thought to be the second-largest in the United Kingdom, sprouted some time around 1770, the year in which British troops managed to precipitate the American Revolution by shooting people, Captain Cook discovered Eastern Australia followed a couple of months later by the Great Barrier reef (being the first European to also damage it by accidentally ramming his boat into the corals).

Unbelievably, though, the DfT with the billions of pounds at its' disposal, couldn't come up with a way around a single tree blocking its' path apart from killing it. And whilst every sane person will now mourn for the loss of yet another living organism, including the twenty- thousand-or-so people who signed a petition for a stay of execution, that loss will be more keenly felt by the creatures that called it 'home'.

We are not just talking about a couple of mice or squirrels here. It has been shown that the average large tree supports hundreds of insect species and a similar number of small plants and lichens - and this is without counting mammalian species that use the fruit (yes it was still producing pears) the birds that predate on the insects and build nests and the countless smaller invertebrates that lived in the bark.

The loss of this tree is a monumental stab at the natural world - a world which is being removed without thought.

It is worth quoting here a line from HS2 Rebellion, a group trying to get the government to avoid the worst excesses of destruction in the name of rail travel:

HS2 is the most expensive, wasteful and destructive project in UK history and is set to destroy 108 ancient woodlands, 693 wildlife sites, 33 Sites of Special Scientific Interest, 5 Internationally important wildlife sites, protected by UK law, 2000 homes and businesses and 19,500 permanent, proper jobs.

108 ancient woodlands and 33 sites of special scientific interest? If this sounds eerily familiar, perhaps you may remember my post on Knapdale's land Management plan - That's right, the one in which Forestry and Land Scotland propose removing vast areas of 'protected' woodland.

A full list of intended tree removal targets can be found here.

It is more than unfortunate that organisations continue to insist of removing as much life as possible from this country.