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Plans to save 200-year-old tree unveiled

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Plans to save a 200-year-old wishing tree in a borough nature reserve, at risk of dying, have been unveiled.

Dudley Council is working with the Friends of Saltwells Nature Reserve to preserve the life of what is known to locals as the wishing tree, a western red cedar.

The 200-year-old tree sits on the piece of land at Saltwells National Nature Reserve, which has recently come back into the council’s ownership.

The tree has sustained damage over recent years and also suffered from a number of arson attacks.

To prevent the tree sustaining any further damage, weakening, or even dying, the council plans to reduce the size of the canopy by cutting it back by one third and placing a fence around it.

From left to right: Thomas Weaver, warden at Saltwells National Nature Reserve, Les Drinkwater from the Friends group, Councillor Shaz Saleem and Marion Drinkwater from the Friends Group

From left to right: Thomas Weaver, warden at Saltwells National Nature Reserve, Les Drinkwater from the Friends group, Councillor Shaz Saleem and Marion Drinkwater from the Friends Group

They hope this will help it to achieve a long life, like the world’s oldest western red cedar which is 1,460 years old.

The council has consulted with the friends group, which is supportive of the plans.

The work will take place in the autumn.

Councillor Shaz Saleem, cabinet member for highways and public realm, said:

We know the wishing tree is thought highly of in the local community and many generations have fond memories of climbing it as a child.
It has been standing for more than 200 years and we want to keep it that way for as long as possible.
The reality is that half of the tree has died, which is why we need to cut it back and give the living half the best chance of survival.
As we plan to cordon off the tree, it will prevent people climbing on it in future. I know this may disappoint some people but this is essential to save the tree, maintain public safety and preserve it for future generations to enjoy.

Lucy Atherton, chair of the Friends of Saltwells Nature Reserve, said:

As custodians, we want to help the tree to thrive long into the future, for all of the nature-lovers within our wonderful community. It is important that we act now before the situation worsens any more.

Les Drinkwater, vice chair of Friends of Saltwells Nature Reserve, said:

Although we are saddened that children can no longer climb and play on this special tree, after a hard life it is getting frail and we need to care for it.

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