The tree poisoner of Penzance: Locals claim mystery vandal who killed hillside sycamores is wealthy homeowner trying to improve their view of Cornish coast
- Sycamores at Bowjey Woods sit in front of large detached houses overlooking harbour in Newlyn, Cornwall
- Experts inspecting trees confirm many were tampered with and injected with herbicide to try to kill them
- Trees have been described as ‘just about hanging on’ but neighbours have issued warning to woodland users
- They think someone with an ‘interest’ in homes on hill must have wanted them gone because they block view
A mystery vandal has sparked fury in a Cornish seaside town by poisoning 50-year-old trees – with locals claiming the suspect is trying to improve their view of the coastline.
Experts who inspected the sycamores at Bowjey Woods, which sit in front of large detached houses overlooking the harbour in Newlyn, confirmed many had been tampered with and injected with herbicide to try to kill them.
The trees have been described as ‘just about hanging on’ but furious neighbours have now issued a warning for users of the woodland, which sits just along the coast from Penzance, to be on guard.
They believe someone with an ‘interest’ in the homes at the top of the hill must have wanted them gone because they blocked their view looking down towards Newlyn Harbour and the seafront in Penzance.
Matt Thompson, 30, who is part of a volunteer group of self-employed gardeners who have been clearing up the woods, said he discovered the problem during a recent site visit from Cornwall Council contractors Cormac.
Matt Thompson, Mary-Jane Wallis and her 12-year-old son Samson are pictured at Bowjey Woods in Newlyn, Cornwall
Trees at the Bowjey Woods have been drilled and mistreated, with council contractors saying they are ‘just about hanging on’
The Bowjey Woods in Newlyn can be seen from Penzance, along with some of the properties situated above them on the hill
Experts who inspected the sycamores at Bowjey Woods confirmed many had been tampered with and injected with herbicide
The group have worked together to found the ‘Friends of Rosebud Gardens and Bowjey Woods’ who tend to the area
He said: ‘We had a meeting with Cormac that was essentially a safety inspection in the woods.
‘While with us, they confirmed suspicions that some of the long standing trees had been drilled into and injected with a herbicide as if they wanted to kill the trees off.
Sycamore trees could have been introduced to Britain by the Romans
Sycamore trees are non-native to Britain and are thought to have been introduced to the country either by the Romans or in the Tudor era around 1500s.
Widespread planting began in the 1700s, and they have since colonised woodland and become a source of food and shelter for aphids, leaving behind a tacky honeydew.
The trees – scientific name ‘acer pseudoplatanus’ – can grow to 115ft (35m) and live for 400 years. According to the Woodland Trust, their bark is dark pink-grey and smooth when young, but becomes cracked with age.
Their twigs are pink-brown and hairless, which helps identify them in winter. They have small, green-yellow flowers which hang in spikes, also known as ‘racemes’.
They can be confused with field maple and Norway maple trees – with V-shaped seeds telling sycamores apart, and the angle of the seeds being narrower than the others. The seeds are known as ‘helicopters’ and are often used by children in flying competitions.
‘Our suspicion is that the trees were blocking someone’s views on that road and they wanted to kill them off to restore their view.
‘The crucial thing is not who they are but what they are doing and it is important we expose that to protect the woods.
‘Now people know they can keep an eye on them as they walk through. That’s better than to name and shame.
‘We don’t know anything about them or if it is a permanent resident or a second home owner – all we know is they don’t like trees.
‘It appears this is all about wanting a better view towards the Cornish coastline including Penzance promenade and Newlyn Harbour, but this is not the way to go about it. They are quite large houses at the top of the woods.’
The site above the woods features a series of homes which are mostly detached with large balconies and grounds. It is not known whether they are second home owners or occupied by local residents.
Mr Thompson has worked alongside Maryjane Wallis and her son Samson Wallis, 12, to found the ‘Friends of Rosebud Gardens and Bowjey Woods’ who give up their spare time to tend to the area.
Prior to their intervention much of the woodland was overgrown, but after months of hard work they have cleared pathways, made the paths safe and installed bat boxes.
Mr Thompson added: ‘People are very unhappy this is throwing a spanner in our efforts to enhance the local area. The area has been neglected for some time.
‘We started our project about a year ago but noticed the problem about a month ago.
‘Cormac say the trees are just about hanging on. They think this was done a few summers ago but the trees are just about pulling through.
Trees at the Bowjey Woods in Newlyn have been drilled and mistreated, with the problem first coming to light in 2018
The view of Penzance from Bowjey Woods in Newlyn, which is obstructed by trees for some detatched houses on the hill
Mr Thompson said he discovered the problem during a recent site visit from Cornwall Council contractors Cormac
A mystery vandal has sparked fury in a Cornish seaside town by poisoning the 50-year-old trees at Bowjey Woods
Locals claiming the suspect is trying to improve their view of the coastline. The trees and properties on the hill are pictured
‘I imagine it is to do with one of those houses on the road but there is not sufficient evidence to report it to the police.
‘Cormac have confirmed someone drilled into the trees. None of the bodies can do anything without a lot more evidence, but we can raise awareness of what has been done to make sure the woods are clear to walk through.’
Cornwall Council said it initially was made aware of the issue in 2018. A spokesman added: ‘It was discovered that holes had been drilled around the base of several trees at Bowjey Woods by unknown parties.
‘There were also signs of dieback which indicated the use of a herbicide. We are pleased to report that the affected trees have now mainly recovered, and there has been no repeat of the incident in the three-year intervening period.’
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