A 250-year-old pear tree, voted England's Tree of the Year, is due to be felled to make way for the HS2 high-speed rail line. The ancient Cubbington Pear tree, in Warwickshire, is thought to be one of the oldest wild pear trees in the UK – planted in the time of King George III.
More than 10,000 votes were cast by members of the public in a contest organised by the Woodland Trust and supported by players of People's Postcode Lottery. Positioned at the top of a hill near South Cubbington Wood, just north of Royal Leamington Spa, it falls on the proposed phase 1 route of the HS2 line from London to Birmingham.
The Woodland Trust has called for the tree to be saved due to its impressive age, but HS2 officials have said that because of its hollow trunk, it will have to be felled with other trees planted nearby. A locally fought campaign has been fighting to save the tree
Peter Delow, chairman of the Cubbington Stop HS2 Action Group, nominated the tree for the award, said: "We asked people to vote for the Cubbington tree as a protest against its planned destruction, and clearly they did so in some numbers. It is most heartening that so many people care about the protection of our natural environment and agree with me that the loss of this tree is just not acceptable, particularly as it could be avoided by changing the design of HS2.
"More than thirty ancient woodlands are directly at risk from the first phase of HS2, yet it is stated government policy to avoid losses of ancient woodland and veteran trees. Our tree serves as a symbol for all that environmental destruction.
"I hope that the crowning of the Cubbington tree will allow us to remind the Government of the obligation that it owes to our natural environment, and I am very grateful to those who have given us this opportunity by voting for the Cubbington tree."
Llanarthne tree, at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, was voted the best tree in Wales, The Peace Tree in Belfast was voted Northern Ireland's Tree of the Year and The Suffragette Oak in Glasgow's Kelvingrove Park won Scottish Tree of the Year. Cubbington's pear tree was selected after securing more than a third of 10,000 votes.
Chief executive of the Woodland Trust, Beccy Speight, said: "Sadly many iconic trees do not have the levels of protection they deserve. And this contest highlights the need to ensure they survive for future generations to enjoy and memories to endure."
The government has said HS2 would deliver great benefits, including job creation and travel time reductions. The first phase of the £50bn project is set to be complete by 2033.
Ben Ruse, a spokesman for HS2, said to the BBC: "We have always recognised the significance of the tree and will do all we can to ensure that wild pear trees continue to be a feature of the countryside around Cubbington."