Saving Darwin’s Oak

Even after the grief and outpouring over losing the Sycamore Gap tree, Shropshire Council is adamant to fell a majestic 550 year old oak, making way for the North West Relief Road.

Darwin's Oak Tree
credit: The Woodland Trust

Along with eight other ancient tree and four kilometres of hedgerow, the 550-year-old, open-grown oak tree stands in the path of the newly planned £80m bypass.

Dubbed ‘Darwin’s Oak‘, the landmark tree is (supposedly) on a route followed by a young Charles Darwin on his walks, feeding his interests in natural history and collecting. According to the campaigners “It is hard to believe that he would not have known the already-aged and significant landmark oak tree (350 years old by then)”. With a girth of seven metres, the tree would certainly have been almost impossible for the young naturalist to miss.

Despite a long campaign to save the oak and its ancient neighbours, Shropshire county council have approved the new road. The route can reportedly not be moved because it would become ‘too bendy’ for a 60mph road. “A dark day for the environment and our natural heritage” said Jack Taylor, Lead campaigner for the Woodland Trust.

The North West Relief Road (NWRR) will ‘complete’ the ring road around the town and reportedly, reduce traffic in the town centre, improving air quality and reducing journey times. Not only will that mean the end of the ancient trees, but campaigners add that “The road will decimate one of the last vestiges of beautiful countryside extending almost to the heart of the county town and widely known as Shrewsbury’s ‘Green Wedge’”.

Shropshire Council have said that they would replaced the lost trees at a ratio of six to one. Campaigners argue that “It is widely accepted that large-canopy, open-grown trees like the Darwin Oak sequester way more CO2 than thousands of saplings that will most probably die from lack of aftercare, as has been clearly demonstrated on recent large infrastructure projects like HS2 and the Cambridge A14 road upgrade project’.

Local campaigners are still hopeful the tree can be saved. A petition has been set up and has to date reached over 14,000 signatures. Surely, it’s worth a slightly bendier road, to save such a majestic living icon of Britain’s natural history?