The days of a long-standing and much-loved Cheltenham landmark are numbered. A very large bough has fallen from the mature copper beech tree in Montpellier Gardens.
And the disease that is killing the tree means that safety concerns could see it cut down shortly.
A fence has been placed around the tree which is more than two centuries old to prevent the public from getting too close, but the prospect of further falls means Cheltenham Borough Council has been forced to consider drastic action
Chris Chavasse, senior trees officer for the council, said: “On the calm evening of 26 June a large limb fell without warning from the copper beech tree in Montpellier Gardens.
“A large limb was also shed without warning in the Autumn of 2012 . The tree, which has been in situ for the past 200 years has unfortunately fallen prey to a serious fungus – Ganoderma adspersum. The broken face of this limb shows extensive colonisation by this fungus.”
“We have been closely monitoring the health of the tree with the assistance of an Arboriculture Association approved consultant for ten years.
“A low fence has been erected to discourage the public from going underneath the canopy due to safety concerns.”
Mr Chavasse said the tree had been pruned over the years to reduce the weight and spread of the crown.
Although it is in full leaf, the tree has been diseased for several years. Last year the borough council said it thought it would have to cut it down in 2016 – but such is its state it look like something will be done sooner.
Mr Chavasse added: “We cannot stop the spread of internal decay, and this will mean that the tree is increasingly likely to shed more limbs. We are aware the tree will have to be removed in the future and this incident means we will have to do this earlier than we had anticipated.”
Bob Beale, chairman of the Cheltenham Tree Group said that the prospect of losing the tree was a shame but inevitable.
He said: “We’ve been working with the council and involved a lot in this.
There’s nothing that can be done really – it’s very diseased and basically it’s dying.
“It’s lived for more than 200 years and the normal span of a copper beech is about 200 years so it’s had a bloody good innings.”
Sitting near the diseased tree in the gardens yesterday was Fiona Leach, 53. She said: “I always thought it was a shame they had the fence up, but if big branches like that are going to fall off without warning then I suppose something has to be done.
“I wouldn’t want them to cut it down for any other reason than if it was dead though. Perhaps they could use some of the wood for a sculpture or something for the park.”
Younger, healthier copper beeches have already been planted and are growing in the gardens near the diseased, elderly tree.