A LINE of trees nearly 100 years old is being felled in Christ Church Meadow as it poses a risk to safety.
The trees in New Walk, an avenue which leads down to the Isis, are suffering from general decay and shedding branches, which could be hazardous to visitors.
John James, the head gardener at Christ Church, said: “It is important that we ensure the safety of the million-plus people who visit the meadow every year.
“We have implemented robust plans to replace the trees on the avenue; that will lessen the impact over the meadows landscape, and return New Walk to its former status.”
Mr James said although there was a threat to public safety from falling branches, the measure was pre-emptive.
“We do sometimes close the walkways on windy days when it is more likely that branches will fall, but not on a day-to-day basis,” he said.
The avenue of trees was planted in the 1860s. The original trees were a mix of limes and elms. In the 1920s these were replaced by black poplars, not indigenous to the landscape.
Christ Church plans to replace 10 decaying black poplars with 18 lime trees, restoring the avenue to its former character.
As Christ Church is a Grade 1 registered meadow, Oxford City Council and English Heritage have to be consulted on any plans that will change or alter the landscape.
As a result of its conservation status, Christ Church will replace the trees in phases over the next 20 years to reduce the impact on the landscape at any one time, but restore the feature within “a reasonable time-scale”.
Sarah Couch, an Oxford-based heritage landscape consultant, said: “Christ Church takes a very responsible approach to the management of its historic landscape and this proposal will maintain and enhance the character of the meadow for future generations.”
Christ Church has applied for a felling licence from the Forestry Commission.
The meadow is one of the oldest maintained public parks in the country, having been continuously managed since the 16th century.
Mr James, 50, from Middle Barton, has been head gardener at Christ Church for three years.
He said: “Compared to most people at Christ Church I’m a spring chicken.
“I haven’t been here very long but I think it’s an amazing job and an incredible challenge and privilege to be working at Christ Church.
“It is vital that the meadow is maintained and Christ Church take that responsibility very seriously.”