An award given to a tree on the proposed High Speed 2 route has been claimed by campaigners as a symbol of public opposition to the £43bn scheme.
A 250-year-old pear tree growing in a hedgerow near South Cubbington Wood was named England’s Tree of the Year after a public vote organised by the Woodland Trust.
But it is due to be cut down to make way for the rapid rail link between London and the North.
Cubbington Action Group Against HS2 chairman Peter Delow said the result showed the level of anti-HS2 feeling around the country.
“We asked people to vote for the Cubbington tree as a protest against its planned destruction, and clearly they did so in some numbers,” he said.
“It is most heartening that so many people care about the protection of our natural environment and agree with me that the loss of this tree is just not acceptable, particularly as it could be avoided by changing the design of HS2.
“A feasible proposal has been made to tunnel under the tree, which would also protect the ancient woodland of South Cubbington Wood – an irreplaceable habitat that will also be destroyed, in part, by HS2.
“More than thirty ancient woodlands are directly at risk from the first phase of HS2. Our tree serves as a symbol for all that environmental destruction.”
Project promoter HS2 insisted it was taking a number of steps to honour the importance of the pear tree.
HS2 lead spokesperson Ben Ruse said: “We have always recognised the significance of the tree and will do all we can to ensure that wild pear trees continue to be a feature of the countryside around Cubbington.
“Because the hollow lower trunk makes it impractical to move the tree, we instead plan to propagate the cuttings, collect seeds and replant the young trees in the surrounding area.
“The felled tree will be moved to a newly created woodland next to South Cubbington Wood where it could provide a new home for all sorts of animals and plants including bugs, beetles, fungi, mosses and lichens.”
High Speed 2 contracts worth up to £11.8bn were put out to tender in September.