Tears at farewell ceremony for axed ancient oak in Hampstead Garden Suburb

A sad farewell was bid to a giant ancient oak that predated Hampstead Garden Suburb as tearful residents read odes and played a trumpet call before the 300-year-old rotten tree was axed.

The Last Post, which is commonly played to commemorate fallen soldiers, sombrely rang out at the moving ceremony to mark the end of the road for the giant oak in Temple Fortune Lane last Thursday.

A fungal infection had ravaged the core of the tree and after two surveys by landowners Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust, the community finally accepted that it had to be cut down.

Reassuring presence

Estate manager Nick Packard said: “The houses were built in a crescent around the tree. Obviously it’s very sad for the residents who’ve had it there all their lives.”

The reassuring presence of the tree, which was as tall as a house with branches at least as wide, seemed to embrace the close-knit community at Temple Fortune Lane, said longstanding lane resident David Baker.

The retired architect said: “It meant a lot to everybody. At Christmas, people would drape fairy lights on it and in the summer there would be fetes on the grass and football and cricket in the shade.

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“I’ll always remember its fantastic canopy and beautiful shape, and coming home on a hot day to a lovely shady garden.”

Eight-year-old Natasha Dein, of one of the six families whose homes were arranged around the tree, read poems dedicated to happy times playing under its branches at the ceremony.

Prayers were then read and her 10-year-old brother Abe solemnly played the Last Post on his trumpet, before tears rolled for some as a tree surgeon made the first cut into the bark.

The timber will now be made into a bench to mark the spot where the tree stood and a replacement oak will be planted elsewhere in Hampstead Garden Suburb as a lasting testament.

“We didn’t want it to be the end,” said Mr Baker, who is also an amateur wood turner and will make wooden bowls and furniture out of some of the timber. “This is our way of introducing a little bit of poetry into our lives.”