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‘I’ll chain myself to trees’ top guitarist’s threat days before Kenwood copper beeches saved

14:00 06 February 2014

Guitarist John Etheridge had threatened to chain himself to the three copper beech trees next to Kenwood House if English Heritage had pushed ahead with its plans to cut them down. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Guitarist John Etheridge had threatened to chain himself to the three copper beech trees next to Kenwood House if English Heritage had pushed ahead with its plans to cut them down. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Acclaimed jazz guitarist John Etheridge and friends had pledged to chain themselves to three magnificent copper beech trees at Kenwood House - but the chain gang was called off as the trees were saved days later.

"I don’t think the view is that special and the sacrifice of three beautiful copper beeches just isn’t worth it"

John Etheridge

The campaign to save three magnificient copper beech trees next to Kenwood House has been victorious – which is probably a great relief to acclaimed guitarist John Etheridge, who had pledged to chain himself to the trees to save them from the axe.

The celebrated jazz performer spoke out last week amid a growing outcry about the proposal to fell the 60-year-old trees as part of English Heritage’s plans to restore “one of London’s great views”.

But after the public consultation came to an end, English Heritage announced on Monday that the proposal to remove the trees had been scrapped.

Mr Etheridge, who lives in South End Green, had described the plan as “draconian” and “beyond reason” – and said he was not the only person who was prepared to take direct action to save the trees.

Image issued by English Heritage as part of the consultation showing the proposed view up to the Kenwood Dairy with the copper beeches removed. Picture: English HeritageImage issued by English Heritage as part of the consultation showing the proposed view up to the Kenwood Dairy with the copper beeches removed. Picture: English Heritage

“I had a lot of friends saying they would chain themselves to the trees,” he said. “I do feel very strongly about it.

“I think the concern was very widespread. We’re talking about something close to people’s hearts.”

The revered musician, who walks on the Heath nearly every day, said he could not believe what he was hearing when he first learned of the scheme.

English Heritage wanted to fell 26 trees in all, including the three large copper beeches beneath the 18th century Kenwood Dairy cottage, to the west of the main house.

The present view up to the Kenwood Dairy. Picture: English HeritageThe present view up to the Kenwood Dairy. Picture: English Heritage

It said the landscaping project would restore a stunning “lost vista” that was present some 150 years ago.

But Mr Etheridge echoed a view shared by many when he said: “I don’t think the view is that special and the sacrifice of three beautiful copper beeches just isn’t worth it.”

After learning that the trees would be saved, he said: “That’s fantastic news and I’m so glad that common sense has prevailed and that everybody’s love of these trees has been recognised.

“We’re quite happy for them [English Heritage] to do whatever hedge pruning they’d like to do, but the copper beaches are essential to be maintained.”

The project to open up the lost views to and from the Kenwood Dairy will go ahead and some 23 other trees will be cut down.

English Heritage worked closely with the Kenwood Landscape Forum and other groups before finalising the proposals.

“We wanted to hear local people’s opinions on our proposal to restore these historic views,” said Paul Jackson, head gardener at Kenwood for more than 10 years.

“It became very clear that although there was support for the project, there was considerable anxiety about removing the copper beeches. We’ve listened and we’ve responded to those concerns.”

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