Girl who fought the fellers

Irton tree protestor Vikki happily settled in the branches.
Irton tree protestor Vikki happily settled in the branches.

THE SAGA of Irton’s beech tree caused huge reaction for and against its felling; to some, protesters were exaggerating their cause, to others they were making a stand on behalf of the environment.

I take a look at the last and longest of the sitting protesters, who has given her views on the episode.

After people said their prayers for the condemned tree just over two weeks ago, on what should have been its d-day, Mark ‘Snoz’ Snow climbed up into the beech tree and spent four days in its branches.

Where one went, four followed, the last, youngest and only female, was Vikki Welsh, or “Beechnut” – a name coined by Mckenzie friend to the Irton tree supporters, Mick Haigh.

The Bridlington-born 17-year- old never knew of the tree’s existence until a few days beforehand, but such was the villagers’ plight she said she couldn’t let it go.

She said: “I saw it on the news when I was at my parents’ house, I saw how beautiful the tree was, I saw the community spirit and I was quite in awe of it.

“I spoke to my friend Snoz, the more I learned, the more I felt really passionately about it.

“The decision was made within minutes. When Rob came down, I saw people’s faces thinking it was all over. I knew anyone in the tree would be committing an offence, but I thought I don’t own property or anything, I didn’t have anything to lose.”

Vikki regards herself as something of a free spirit and after attending Hornsea School, she decided “to pursue life experience”.

She isn’t tied down to a job, lives between places and might be spotted at Scarborough’s open mic nights, counting Fleetwood Mac, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan among her influences.

Her biggest idol, however, is David Attenborough, and a major passion of hers, from a young age, is and remains the environment.

“I’ve just been attached with nature from a very young age,” said Vikki. “I used to  rescue all sorts of critters, I do artwork dedicated to landscapes and seascapes, I’ve done a bit of community work in Raincliffe Woods.

“The environment is very important; we should be working with it, not against it. If it wasn’t for trees, we wouldn’t be here.

“It was the heart of village, people come together over the beauty of what it’s brought.

“That nostalgia makes us human and that’s what’s been taken away from people.”

On the tree’s day of execution, a week ago today, Vikki and the protesters accepted defeat stating “there was nothing more we could do.”

She added: “You could feel the energy in the tree, every morning waking up I witnessed so many things close up. I’ve been back today and I didn’t even recognise the street.

“The last night was awful, when I woke up, I looked out of my sleeping bag, I could see the street closed off, people in hi-vis jackets everywhere, it was quite shocking. The experience was like  a stand-off situation.

“Even though we lost the tree, it was worth being up there so people could fight the legal battle with even the smallest bit of hope. We just ran out of time.

“I tried to stay strong watching it; I’d spent so much intimate time with the tree, it was as if I could feel it myself when the chainsaws were cutting in, it was really intense.”

Although having fought a lost battle, Vikki says she has gained from the experience.

“I’ve found my calling through this. I have no regrets, if it started sooner then there could have been a way to save the tree, but in the time we had, we did our best.

“My aim now is to fully establish the Irton Tree Foundation and get a group of volunteers to work for the rights of trees in similar situations through our knowledge.

“We’re planning on setting up a street event to celebrate the memories and the future in Irton Main Street. We’ll be giving away beech nuts, I’d like to see them planted all over the world.

“Negative comments spur me on, the fact that we’re doing things and not getting paid to it, shows there are people out there who genuinely care.

“There’s nothing anyone can say to stop me from wanting to continue this campaign and cause.”