Page last updated at 11:22 GMT, Monday, 29 September 2008 12:22 UK

Yew tree felling was 'vandalism'

Photograph of the yew tree taken in August 2008
The council said it had discussed its plan to fell the yew tree

The cutting down of an 800-year-old yew tree which stood in front of the Richard Jefferies museum in Swindon has been called "an act of vandalism".

Jean Saunders of the Richard Jefferies Society said the tree had literary importance and featured in many of the Victorian nature writer's works.

Swindon Borough Council, which owns the museum, said the tree was damaging the listed museum building in Coate.

"We took the decision with huge reluctance," said a council spokesman.

"Like many buildings of its age, it has no proper foundations and is therefore very sensitive to movement and disturbance," said the spokesman.

We are bitterly disappointed that the council have sneaked in behind our backs and carried out this abominable act
Jean Saunders
Richard Jefferies Society

Richard Jefferies (1848-1887) was born at a dairy farm at Coate, two miles from old Swindon, and lived there on and off until 1875.

He is best known for his nature writing, inspired by the countryside and wildlife around his home.

The council said it had written to Mrs Saunders to say the tree was to be felled and had spoken to her about the matter.

But Mrs Saunders said she understood the discussions had resulted in a compromise which would mean the tree would stay.

"We got wind that the council wanted to take down the tree earlier this year, blaming it for a crack in the house," said Mrs Saunders.

"We protested most strongly. We thought that we had reached agreement with them that the tree should be reduced in height and better managed.

"We are angry at this act of vandalism and bitterly disappointed that the council have sneaked in behind our backs and carried out this abominable act."

She added: "Eight hundred years to grow - minutes to cut down."


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