Tribute paid to Cubbington's historic pear tree - The Leamington Observer

Tribute paid to Cubbington's historic pear tree

Leamington Editorial 10th Nov, 2020   0

TRIBUTE has been paid to the historic Cubbington pear tree which was recently felled to make way for HS2.

Protestors against the high speed line say they have been left ‘devastated’ after the loss of the tree, which was cut down by contractors on Tuesday October 20.

And Rose Guiot and Frances Wilmot – who are among those to campaign tirelessly against the tree’s destruction – have looked back at its history.

The tree is believed to have grown from a pear core thrown away by a farm worker or someone walking to Weston Mill, which stood on the River Leam.

While its exact age is unknown due to the tree’s trunk being hollow, Steven Falk, senior curator of natural history at Warwickshire Museum, aged it at between 200 and 300-years-old.

It would have seen village men leaving to fight in the Second World War – during which two bombs fell in nearby woods, leaving craters which filled with water in wet weather – the First World War along with the Boer and Crimean wars and possibly even the Napoleonic wars.

Rose told the Observer the tree had always been a popular ‘destination’ for locals.

She said: “The tree and nearby woods have always been much loved by Cubbington people. Until the area was fenced off, they were popular destinations for Sunday walks – just far enough to take small children without having to carry them home.

“As we walked up Mill Lane in April, our spirits were lifted by the beautiful sight of the pear tree in bloom. The view from the tree was marvellous, arguably one of the best in Warwickshire. You could look down to the willows on the Leam, across the river to the Fosse Way and Offchurch, beyond to Long Itchington Wood and enjoy the changing colours of fields, trees and hedges as the seasons progressed.

“People have mentioned doing their courting up there, picnicking under the tree and even studying there, while sometimes being fortunate enough to see animals appear out of the wood.”

The tree’s fate became known in 2011 and campaigners say it became a ‘symbol of the fight against HS2’.

A petition was launched calling for a tunnel from the viaduct over the River Leam to the other side of Cubbington Wood, saving South Cubbington Wood and the pear tree. They were denied on the grounds of cost and the need to move extra soil.

A later petition which received 21,500 signatures called for the tree to be saved.

In 2014 Cubbington Action Group was contacted by Paul Labous, a horticultural lecturer at Shuttleworth College in Bedfordshire. He had successfully grafted another old variety of pear tree and offered to do the same with the Cubbington pear.

It has since had some saplings planted locally including at Cubbington C of E School, Guy’s Cliffe Walled Garden, Brandon Marsh in Coventry, Hill Close Gardens, St Teresa’s School in Cubbington and Forest of Hearts in Stratford. The propagation is now continuing at Crowder’s Nursery in Lincolnshire.

The only larger pear tree has been found in Gloucestershire, and the Cubbington pear’s age and size led to it being voted English Tree of the Year in 2015 after tireless canvassing by members of Cubbington Action Group and Stop HS2.

In 2016 it was entered in the European Tree of the Year competition and took eighth place.

In its final weeks residents tied yellow ribbons on fencing around the tree, and as contractors moved in to begin removing it protestors ensured they were onsite.

To create a memento, Cubbington Parish Council has asked for some wood from the felled tree. Horizonal slices have also been requested to create a timeline of what the tree would have ‘seen’ throughout its lifetime.

HS2 says it plans to save the ‘root plate’ and plant it in the adjoining mitigation area in the hope it will survive.

Frances said: “The felling of the Cubbington wild pear was a tragic end to a 10-year battle for Cubbington Action Group against HS2. Like many people, I feel anger, despair and sadness about HS2’s environmental destruction around this area. The pear was magnificent in full bloom on the top of a hill overlooking Leam Valley and can’t be replicated by saplings taking years to mature. South Cubbington’s ancient woodland with carpets of bluebells and wood anemones is also irreplaceable.

“Cubbington Action Group tried all channels to save the tree and woodland.

“My favourite tree has gone, the wood is being destroyed and Leam Valley now almost unrecognisable, but the pear tree, bluebells and anemones remain in my memory. This unique and very special area should have been preserved for future generations.”

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