Sadness as mighty cedar is felled


Many local residents of Rye are deeply saddened by the felling of a large cedar tree in Rye Cemetery. It was part of their childhood and had special memories for them.

Mighty cedar felled in Rye Cemetery

Emily Brodrick-Stewart had this to say: “The local community should have been consulted before the decision to fell the tree was made. The local council should have shared the findings on the report and had open and transparent communication with the people of the town so they could understand why the decision was made and included in discussions on what should be done with the leftover wood. This has been such a shock to everyone it almost feels underhand almost cowardly and as a community we have been disregarded which has made us all outraged.”

Tony Edwards, a resident of Rye, was shocked to see the tree was no longer there: “It is a very sad day. When I was very young my grandad was the grave digger and he and my grandmother lived in the cemetery cottage at the top. I have fond memories of my childhood and the imposing tree which seemed to tower over us youngsters.”

Rother District Councillor Simon McGurk sent the following to Rye News: “Very sadly the much loved cedar at Rye Cemetery had to be felled this week following a professional and comprehensive arborist report. The risk of limbs beginning to fall in the coming years could not be reasonably mitigated after the tree began to suffer from fungal attacks and degradation to its crown.”

The report explained:

‘The tree’s rooting system and the soils that support the tree as a living organism are damaged. A minimum of two structural root decay fungi are present, both have the potential to lead to structural root/low stem breakage. Armillaria species can’t be ruled out either given the overall crown condition. On this basis (and as a result of physiological decline), this tree is likely to drop limbs as a minimum or suffer a structural root shear failure in the years ahead (if it does not die first). Managers of the cemetery site will understand that the access road and chapel building targets cannot be moved. This places further pressure on the tree and on-going damage is taking place.’

“Your local Rother Councillors are working with local community groups to find a sculptor to fashion a lasting and fitting memorial for the magnificent tree, supporting grant applications to fund the sculpture (work on the timber is subject to the application’s success), working with a local woodworking and timber expert who has volunteered to make benches to be placed in the cemetery and possibly find other uses for the timber, conducting a poll via their Facebook page on what species of tree ought to replace the cedar.

“If grant applications are successful and providing we can engage a sculptor a further poll will be offered on what residents would prefer the subject to be. If you are a local wood or chainsaw sculptor and you would like to be involved please contact”

Rye Cemetery the cedar in its splendour

The original version of this article said that Councillor McGurk represented Rye Town Council, it should have stated he is a Rother District Councillor.

Image Credits: Phil Law , Tony Edwards .

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  1. Another iconic piece of Rye just taken from us Ryer’s ,no discussion of any sort ,what alternatives were there,(Lets just cut it down to the floor )

  2. Please note I am a Rother District Cllr and do not represent Rye Town Council although the Town Council also received the same Arborist report.
    I will be away for a little over a week and can’t respond to any correspondence until the week after next.
    Worth bearing in mind for those who enquire about the option of leaving the stump of the Cedar in place and sculpting it in situ, there are more Cedars in the cemetery that are susceptible to the same fungus, they must be protected, to leave the source of infection in place to continue to grow would place the remaining trees at increased risk, we all hope they will be safe from infection. Secondly, a sculpture would provide relatively short term interest while the principle of replacing a felled tree with at least one new one is well established, in fact the Woodland Trust recommends planting 3 trees for every felled one. To plant a tree is to think of future generations not ourselves alone and God knows we owe future generations for the damage we have done to the earth.

    • Thanks that’s helpful – can you explain the timeline of RDC and Rye Town Council receiving the the report, the decision (I understand there were 3 options?), and why there was no communication to the electorate before the tree was felled?

    • The arborist report makes a number of comments about the suitable of the site for a tree. Part of the damage to the tree was caused by vehicle’s impacting the soil, so the sculpture option was viable. I’d like to know if you assertions about the stump being a danger to other trees is actually correct. I could not deduce this fact from the report – and it was the arborist who included the sculpture as an option. I think it may be just your personal opinion that a sculpture would be of ‘ short term interest. It would be ideal to seek the views of residents.

  3. I do not believe some of these reports on a trees health. Consultants, tree advisors or arboriculturists or tree surgeons just want the work! This is a tragic end to such a magnificent tree. The council should have consulted the residents of Rye first! Shameful.

    • I passed by here while the arborists and Cllr McGurk were present. The tree had been felled by that point and they were dealing with the resulting huge amount of wood, some enormous logs, others smaller. The arborists have opened up the remaining stump to show the rotten wood inside; one actually showed me how easily a screwdriver could be pushed into it. I was pleased to hear that further up the trunk the wood was healthy and would, all being well, be turned into sculptures and benches.

  4. What a shame our excellent mayor couldn’t have informed us on the imminent demise of this ancient Cedar, that is what Irks most people, lack of communication between the people who have made these councillors custodians of our town.Only now they come creeping out of the woodwork due to the hue and cry of people annoyed by their silence on the issue, perphaps now they will learn from now on ,to engage with people, when important decisions like this,are taken.

  5. Thank you Cllr. McGurk for such a thorough and thoughtful explanation about the tree’s removal. Very helpful to know the careful decision making that went into this action.

  6. Thank you for publishing my photograph at the head of this article – seems a fitting memorial. As to John’s comment I think RDC (and Rye Town Council?) probably decided not to communicate before cutting down the tree as they knew what a furore it would cause.

  7. I agree with the general view that this decision was unnecessarily secretive.
    It is a great pity that the first local people knew of the felling, was the whine of chainsaws.
    I understand the arborist mentioned possible root fungus, in other words not visible. The trunk shows no obvious signs of rot.
    This is another example of fear of being sued, if a falling limb injures somebody and if the Council has sufficient insurance.

  8. Saddened and angry that the powers that be should decide to destroy this mighty Cedar. Surely there must have been a preservation order protecting it. From what I can see on the photo of the pile of logs there doesn’t appear to be anything in the way of infection to me. What is next for our cemetery? Flatten all of the headstones and fill the site with “affordable housing” Shameful misuse of authority.

  9. Which ever council it is that made this decision have completely missed the point of the outcry both here and especially on on Facebook.

    No one can argue with the reasoning behind the action and protecting the rest of the trees is obviously a good thing but these decisions weren’t made over night, inspections were made, reports sent and read before any decisions were made.

    How it now looks is that the council kept it quite because they knew there would be an outcry so get it cut down and then deal with the outcry, once it’s down no amount of protesting can get it put back.

    What would have been better would have been if the council had told those who elected them that there was a problem and they were looking into it with a warning of what might happen.
    Try being honest and up front, sometimes it’s so much better.

  10. As the Council said: – The risk of limbs beginning to fall in the coming years – it was not that urgent to fell the tree immediately, so there was time for discussion in my opinion ??

    Why the haste ? Did a councilor need logs ??
    Gerard Lemmens

  11. I suspect the Council might have an ulterior motive for felling this tree. It’s well-known that RDC wants to prevent cemetery visitors taking their cars down to the bottom of the cemetery. A notice to this effect appeared beside the track. My belief is that the Council will convert the (now opened-up) space into a visitor car park and they will probably prevent the public’s vehicles from proceeding any further. This could explain the secrecy and lack of public consultation over what was one of Rye’s most iconic and most-loved trees. It also explains why a 4-metre stump of the tree wasn’t left to be carved into a sculpture, which was one of the options in the arborculture report.

    The evidence of fungal disease in the roots seems to be somewhat weak. The tree surveyor was unable to use a Picus sonic tomography scan to detect the decay, but he claimed there was ‘root decay fungi presence’, while admitting he couldn’t access the roots to confirm this. When I examined the stump, there were a few small patches of darker timber and a small section on one side, which could have contained decay, had been cut away. However, the roots looked fine and I saw no evidence of fungal attack at the base of the tree.

    The three options in the report were to fell the tree, to turn the bottom 4m into a sculpture or to treat the tree chemically to improve its health.

    Rye residents will know the Council’s reasons for felling the tree from its future actions. If it turns this area into a car park, then we’ll suspect the tree was prematurely euthanised; if it plants a replacement tree in the same spot, then we’ll believe its excuse for felling the tree. I suspect the most likeliest outcome will be a car park and that RDC will plant another two or three young trees in another part of the cemetery.

  12. Sadly the silence of Rye Town council Is deafening on the demise of this tree, passing the buck,that it is Rother district councils responsibility, is a poor excuse, why couldn’t they engage with the towns people, this area is still a part of Rye,and its heritage, and a joint statement from both councils, before this decision was made, would have stopped the huge outcry that we are seeing,from so many residents.

  13. I counted 156 annual growth rings at the stump – likely planted around 1870 fifteen years into the life of the Cemetery which was opened in 1855 so it has been part of the Rye landscape for a long time.

  14. Cedar tree at Rye Cemetery, Rye Foreign. Statement from Rye Town Council

    Rye Town Council recognises that the recent felling of a landmark cedar tree in Rye Cemetery has caused some parishioners considerable distress.

    The Cemetery is owned and managed by Rother District Council. The tree was located outside the Rye Parish boundary, in Rye Foreign.

    Having considered the evidence of decay – and the expert’s prognosis – contained within the tree survey report commissioned by Rother District Council, neither Rye Foreign Parish Council, nor Rye Town Council, had cause to question the report’s conclusion that the cedar was nearing the end of its life and presented a risk to both people and property.

    However, in hindsight the Town Council considers that it would have been appropriate for the situation to have been explained to the public, prior to Rother District Council implementing its decision to fell the cedar, grind out the stump and plant a replacement tree that is suitable for the location.


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