A COMMUNITY devastated by the destruction of a 200-year-old hedgerow and field of trees say their history has been destroyed.

Dozens of residents and nature lovers alike planted saplings today at a woodland near Seaham Hall as a symbolic gesture.

The nature enthusiasts said they are urging the culprits to take accountably for the removal and said they wanted to show whoever responsible that they will not take it lying down.

Residents from across east Durham brought a mixture of saplings including ash, mahonia and fruit trees as well as shrubs.

The Northern Echo:

Artist Jac Seery Howard, who has previously painted the hedgerow, said: “I wept when I saw it I couldn’t believe anyone would destroy something that was 200-year-old. Today is a symbolic gesture to make us feel not so futile and helpless.

“We realise the digger might come back next week and destroy them but we’ve made our feelings clear and think it’s disgraceful how they’ve done it during lockdown.”

The artist said she will no longer come to the site as finds the view upsetting.

Seaham resident Jean Spence – who come up with the idea to plant the trees – said she has been coming to the site since she was a child.

The Northern Echo:

She said: “The idea was to make a positive statement. This land has been used by people for decades and it’s awful to think they can just come in and ruin it for profit. Gathering here today shows that the people of Seaham will not be walked on.”

Another planter, Maureen Davidson was worried about the impact on the various native species in the woodland.

She said: “We’re losing all the greenspaces in Seaham gradually and this was done with total disregard for the people of Seaham.

“I want tree preservation orders on all of the dene to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Wildlife will have died and been displaced it’s awful. People used to enjoy walking through here everyday seeing the history and the wildlife.”

The Northern Echo:

The residents believe Seaham Hall are to blame and say they cut down the trees make way for new holiday lodges however the luxury hotel has said it does not own the land.

The Northern Echo:

Stuart Timmiss, Durham County Council’s head of development and housing, said: “We have received complaints recently about a number of trees, on land which was not the subject of the planning application for lodges at Seaham Hall, being felled.

“We are currently following up these complaints and have written to the registered owner of the land and spoken to an agent, and have also made the Forestry Commission and Durham Constabulary aware. Our officers have been on site and will continue to monitor the situation.

“We have also served an emergency tree preservation order to provide protection to remaining trees in the area.”