Campaigners rally to save 700-year-old oak tree in Reading once used to spy on King Charles' army

  • WATCH ITV News Meridian's Mel Bloor reporting from Reading.

A campaign is underway to save an historic oak tree in Reading that was once used to spy on King Charles I's army during the English Civil War.

Developers want to build a new three bedroom house on land in Gayhurst Close in Caversham which would require the 700-year-old tree to be chopped down.

But, the plan has attracted hundreds of objections already with residents and campaigners rallying to save the tree which they say is of ecological and historical importance.

Campaigner Rob McBride says: "During the English Civil War, the Parliamentarians were here in this area and used the tree to have a couple of spies climb up and spy on the Royal army that was heading this way.

A planning application has been submitted to cut the tree down and build a new three bedroom house in its place. Credit: ITV News Meridian

"Following on from that they had a bloody battle down at Balmore Hill and loads were slaughtered and the Parliamentarians won the battle so when you tie that in with the biodiversity, the amenity value, the continuity value of this tree, then you've got a story that is just tremendous."

Chair Homes, who are behind the new home plan, say the tree is diseased and in decline but those hoping to save it say it needs to be allowed to age at its own pace.

The counter argument from residents is that this decaying oak tree is a vital and increasingly rare eco system - supporting hundreds of invertebrates including beetles, worms and spiders.

Local resident Jennifer Leach said: "It's feeding the earth, it's feeding life and it's not under threat because of its state, it's under threat in order for it to be cut down so a three bedroom house can be squeezed into a space that's not appropriate."

The tree was once used as lookout during the English Civil War. Credit: ITV News Meridian.

Local biodiversity group Reading Tree Wardens have also objected to the plans, as has The Woodland Trust which has listed the oak in its Ancient Tree Inventory.

Jack Taylor from The Woodland Trust said: "We talk about the importance of St Paul's Cathedral and Notre Dame in France, these are nature's cathedrals these giant massive oaks that have been around for 700 to 800 years. They are our key natural heritage."

Promises have been made to replace the oak with two new trees if the plan gets the go ahead but residents and campaigners say nothing can compensate for its loss.

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