Anger after 150-year-old beech tree hit by arson attack in Galashiels

Conservationist Bonnie Fairbrass at the 150-year-old beech tree targeted by arsonists in Galashiels.Conservationist Bonnie Fairbrass at the 150-year-old beech tree targeted by arsonists in Galashiels.
Conservationist Bonnie Fairbrass at the 150-year-old beech tree targeted by arsonists in Galashiels.
Dismay has been expressed after arsonists torched a 150-year-old beech tree at a community woodland on the outskirts of Galashiels.

Tree surgeons say the 100ft high beech, subject to a tree preservation order, at the Gala Policies will now have to be felled due to extent of internal fire damage caused.

That arson attack has angered local resident and sculptor Bonnie Fairbrass, one of the many locals to report it to Scottish Borders Council.

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Bonnie, of Balmoral Avenue in Galashiels, believes the region’s youngsters need to be educated on the vital role trees play in the environment.

She has now joined forces with council representatives and other members of the community to set up an action group to protect the woodland from further attacks.

Bonnie, 47, said: “I am deeply saddened that this has happened and even more so because it would appear to be young adults who started the fire.

“The Policies are a real local treasure, a large and diverse area of woodland with many trees over 100 years old.

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“It is an inspiring and healing place which has greatly influenced my work since moving to Galashiels in 2016.

“The wildlife that the woodland supports is extremely important to the local environment and to the wellbeing of the community in general. Our green spaces are precious and should be treated as such.

“The Policies has been enjoyed for many years by all members of the community, and I don’t want to see that change. I feel that it is important for our young adults to use the woods as being outside in nature is so good for mental health, but when this use becomes destructive, something has to be done.

“Trees are extremely important to the survival of the planet in the current climate crisis we are all facing.

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“Trees contribute to their environment by providing oxygen, improving air quality, climate amelioration, conserving water, preserving soil and supporting wildlife.

“I hope that the person or persons involved in this feel remorse and that the anger and sadness this act has caused the community is turned into something positive.”

Bonnie, owner of the town’s Dirty Earth pottery studio, added: “Myself, the council and other members of the community are currently in the process of setting up an action group to try and tackle some of the issues within the Policies.”

Galashiels councillor Euan Jardine, Scottish Border Council’s executive member for culture and sport, is backing the action group’s formation, saying: “I think it is vitally important that this area of the town is well maintained.

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“I recently visited and signs were hidden behind overgrown trees. If you are a visitor to the town, it is important to give great first impressions.

“I was also frustrated to see plastic bottles in the pond. We all know the issues with plastic, but sometimes we think world when we need to think about our own backyard first.

“Some of the ideas that have been discussed and will be implemented include more signs for the area including one to prevent fly-tipping and also the upgrading of some of the core paths.”

“These ideas will really help create a better experience for anyone in the Policies, whether that be walkers, runners or even the many dogs that use the area.

“I really want to see the Polices come to life.”

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“Currently it does have a very dark feel to it. I would love to have some nice flowers and different things to be seen on each trail. I am also looking to see what we can do in Langlee Woods as well, although for these bigger ideas a committee will need to be formed, so I am looking for anyone who wants to get involved to get in touch.”

If you are interested in volunteering, teaching, fundraising or just general support for such a project, get in touch with Bonnie via email at [email protected]