FORESTRY chiefs yesterday stepped in to replace an eyesore Christmas tree dubbed the worst in Britain.
The festive fir at Castle Dene shopping centre, Peterlee, had received international attention since The Journal revealed how locals dismissed it as a twig, a toilet brush and an insult to the town.
Yesterday the Forestry Commission intervened to replace the tatty tree with a handsome 20-year-old 20ft Norway spruce.
And the new tree was given a good reception by dozens of shoppers who braved the freezing temperatures to watch its arrival.
Local resident Christine Fletcher, from Stainton Way, Peterlee, said: “It is much nicer than the previous one, which was a disgrace.
“This one will look even better when it is decorated.”
And Peterlee councillor Joan Maslin, who described the original tree as looking like something people would throw into a skip after Christmas, thanked The Journal for highlighting the threadbare nature of the original.
She said: “This episode has shown me that it pays to speak out if something isn’t right.
“The original threadbare Christmas tree would still be there now if nobody had said anything.”
The new tree, which was grown in the Forestry Commission’s Ravensworth site near Gateshead, was chopped down on Wednesday.
It was welcomed by five-year-old Lewis Dickinson, from Peterlee, who supplied the first decoration.
But one local man joked: “The original tree got so much publicity it was fast becoming a tourist attraction.
“We won’t be getting so many visitors to the town now that it’s been reduced to mulch.”
Alex MacLennan, tourism and communities manager with the Forestry Commission, said: “We acted in double quick time so that people in Peterlee can share in the festive spirit and enjoy a handsome specimen full of fragrance and forest freshness.” The tree was transported free of charge and supplied at cost price.
The Forestry Commission is one of the UK’s leading suppliers of giant trees for city centres and prestige locations, including a 45-footer which has been erected under Big Ben at Westminster.
Forest workers have also linked up with the charity run by the staff at Deerbolt Young Offender Institution in Barnard Castle to help them raise money to transport much-needed supplies to Romanian orphans.
Staff at Hamsterley Forest, near Bishop Auckland, will be bagging trees and carrying them to revellers’ cars and will also be running games and stalls over the next three weekends in the forest.
The Christmas tree sales point is located at the visitor centre, signed off the A68. For more information contact (01388) 488312 or log on to www.forestry.gov.uk/NorthEastEngland