College saves ancient pear tree from HS2

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Students at Shuttleworth College have been helping to save an ancient pear tree threatened by HS2.

Cubbington’s wild pear, an ancient Warwickshire tree voted England’s Tree of the Year in 2015, will be one of the environmental losses from the construction of high speed rail line HS2.

Standing close to South Cubbington Wood, the tree could be over 200 years old and is the second largest wild pear reported in UK. All efforts to save both tree and wood have failed.

Cubbington Action Group against HS2 were contacted by Paul Labous, a lecturer at Shuttleworth, who offered to attempt to graft cuttings from the tree with his RHS Level 3 students.

He had succeeded with another ancient variety, the Warden Pear, a tree mentioned in Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale”. Cuttings were dispatched to the college over a two-year period, but grafting proved difficult due to the age of the tree.

This year, Paul Labous was finally able to report a successful graft from new growth taken in early 2016 from the base of the tree. The next step was to make sure that the DNA of the crown growth of the original tree and the new maiden tree (sapling) matched. Leaf samples of both were collected and the match was confirmed. Further propagation from the maiden tree is continuing at Shuttleworth College, prior to it being brought ‘home’.

Peter Delow, chairman of Cubbington Parish Council and Cubbington Action Group against HS2, added: “I am very grateful to Paul and his students for their work in securing for us a source of saplings that should ensure that, in due course, future generations of Cubbingtonians will once again have their springs brightened by the sight of a mature pear tree in blossom.”