ONE of the most historic trees in Bangor is to be felled after becoming infected with a deadly disease.
The 180 year-old weeping ash outside First Bangor Presbyterian Church will be cut down next Tuesday after becoming infected by ash dieback.
The loss of the award winning tree will be a bitter blow to its local admirers – such was the public outcry after the First World War that plans to replace the tree with a War Memorial were scrapped.
It has been a dramatic decline for this tree that stands over 30 feet tall in the church grounds as just five years ago the weeping ash was named the runner up in the Tree of the Year competition.
Rev. Mairisine Stansfield explained that such was the extent of the disease and the danger posed to public safety that there was no choice but to take the ‘really sad’ decision to fell the landmark town centre tree.
The church has been monitoring the tree’s steady decline as she explained. “Over the last year we have been tracking the deterioration and the health of the tree with the loss of foliage and branches coming off regularly.
“It is a weeping ash and it has ash dieback. We have carried out extensive pieces of work with expert organisations such as the National Trust, the Woodland Trust, Ards and North Down Borough Council, The Tree Council, Belfast City Council, the Royal Horticultural Society and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
“We have had advice from various tree surgeons and in light of all the advice, and the instructions of our insurers, we have no option.”
The church minister said the situation has become dangerous explained that a large branch recently fell two minutes after the church caretaker had been under it.
“It was planted in 1840, so it is 180 years old, it is really sad,” she said.
Rev. Mairisine spoke of the fondness that many local people have for the tree and its rich history in the city.
“After the First World War our Kirk Session had planned to take it down and put in a public war memorial but there was such a public outcry they didn’t.”
Despite its lengthy history the origins of the weeping ash remain unclear. “It could have been planted to celebrate 200 years of the Presbyterian Church but we don’t know,” she said. “In the church history there is a reference in 1973 to the tree being 130 years old.”
She spoke of its award winning success saying: “It was unusual because it was a weeping ash and in 2018 it came runner up in the Tree of the Year competition. With the money we received we were able to get benches so that people could sit under it.”
The church is determined that the tree’s legacy will live on and will be taking more advice.
The minister said: “We hope that from the trunk that it will be possible to create some objects so the tree will live on. There will be a legacy from the tree.”