A popular tree which has been lovingly decorated at Christmas for the past two decades has been cut down, prompting an angry response.
The tree in the Simonside hills had become something of a local landmark, with walkers making the trek each year to add festive ornaments and trimmings to it.
Organisers of the annual Simonside Fell Race also decorated it to help mark out a section of the route.
But, to the shock and horror of locals, the tree has recently been chopped by the Forestry Commission, as part of work to maintain the area’s habitat. The Commission says it was unaware of its local importance and has apologised, adding that it has spoken to a community representative about decorating another tree.
The Gazette was informed about the felling last week, when Peter Reed took a picture of the cut-down tree.
Accompanying the photograph, he wrote: ‘Someone has decided it was a good idea to cut it down. The only other two suitable trees nearby have also been chopped down.
‘We have decorated this tree every December since it was about four foot tall some 20 years ago. We started to put tinsel and baubles on it as part of the marked route of our annual Simonside Fell Race.
‘Over the years it has become a seasonal tradition for more and more individuals and families to walk up to see the tree and the fantastic views from it. Many people walk up and add decorations to it, some as a way of remembering friends or family.’
The felling has also prompted criticism from Rothbury county councillor Steven Bridgett.
He said: “While I appreciate that the Forestry Commission has a job to do, the Simonside Christmas tree had become something of a local landmark over the last 20 years, particularly during the festive season.
“The tree also provided something of a pick-me-up for those competing in the fell race each December.
“It is a shame that the Commission could not have exercised more consideration.”
In reply, a Forestry Commission spokeswoman said: “As part of managing a large estate, we are responsible for managing a number of sites which can be forest, woodland or open space.
“Simonside is recognised for its diverse and important plant communities including wet and dry heath and blanket bog. The work being carried out is part of routine maintenance to maintain this habitat which is also designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
“We are sorry to have unknowingly removed a tree of such local importance, but a staff member spoke to someone on Tuesday night and they are going to decorate a different tree.”