Shocked silence as saga is ended

THERE was plenty of drama but no histrionics at the foot of the Irton tree yesterday.

People who have fought to save what they saw as the focal point of the village watched on in silence as the beech tree was felled branch by branch.

The last day of the Irton beech tree. 'Picture by Andrew Higgins  114017a  04/10/11

The last day of the Irton beech tree. 'Picture by Andrew Higgins 114017a 04/10/11

They were joined – behind temporary 7ft metal barriers – by various characters from further afield who have taken the tree to their hearts ever since the first protester, Mark “Snoz” Snow, climbed it exactly two weeks earlier, catapulting it into the national spotlight.

It appeared that nobody had invested as much emotional capital as 17-year-old Vikki “Beech Nut” Welsh, who had spent the previous four nights in the branches.

Wrapped in a blanket, she appeared cold and crestfallen as the protesters finally accepted defeat as news filtered through that a last-gasp attempt to grant the tree a stay of execution had failed.

“I’m distraught. I love the environment and nature, I just did what’s right,” a tearful Vikki said. “We have got to accept that there is nothing more we can do. This isn’t the end - it’s the beginning. We have set up a foundation to make sure we can safeguard other trees. We hope we can make a difference.”

The last day of the Irton beech tree. 'Picture by Andrew Higgins  114017a  04/10/11

The last day of the Irton beech tree. 'Picture by Andrew Higgins 114017a 04/10/11

Despite a threat of arrest and prison, police helped Vikki down and took no action against the teenager.

There had been an ambitious attempt to raise £10,000 so that a High Court injunction to remove protesters, granted last week, could be challenged but the fund fell well short.

In August, a judge ordered North Yorkshire County Council to fell the tree over fears that it was causing damage to a nearby property.

The specimen had previously been granted a Tree Preservation Order by Scarborough Borough Council and a legal battle, which cost the county council alone at least £250,000, ensued.

The final hours of the last day for the Irton beech tree, as it is finally felled. Picture by Andrew Higgins  114029a   04/10/11

The final hours of the last day for the Irton beech tree, as it is finally felled. Picture by Andrew Higgins 114029a 04/10/11

As the tree was coming down, villager Richard Harrison said: “I don’t know where we will go from here.

“It will take a bit of time to get used to the hole in the sky.

“We hope we are going to be able to plant some new trees at the bottom of the village which we will name after the people who have been up the beech tree. What they have done is superb.”