An ancient tree which starred as the ‘Whomping Willow’ in the Harry Potter film series has split in half and collapsed, Ashridge foresters have confirmed.
The distinctive beech in Frithsden Beeches – part of the National Trust’s Ashridge Estate – has fallen to the ground under the strain of its own weight and age, marking the end of its centuries-long life.
Forester Andrew Simpkins explained there are a number of other factors involved in the iconic tree’s demise.
He said: “A combination of factors has caused the tree to fall in half – the biggest one being its age.
“It is a very old tree and is a host to some quite aggressive decay funghi. As well as this, there is its size and also wind and rain which have helped cause the failure.
“It is a shame – it’s the end of an era really, but now it can start a new part of its life in its decay as a different habitat for Ashridge’s wildlife.”
Andrew said it is very difficult to tell how old the tree is, because it has grown to a certain size and been cut back over its lifetime – but is certainly several hundred years old.
The recognisable gnarled tree was scouted by location managers working on the 2004 movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and was reported to have earned the Ashridge Estate around £50,000 in tourism in the same year.
Film crews also poured cash into the beauty spot for the privilege of shooting scenes there over a two week period.
The tree was adopted in 1988 by a national conservation campaign to protect ancient trees. A certificate signed by the Archbishop of Canterbury was awarded to the community at the time.
Forester Andrew explained the famous tree would be left to rot in situ to preserve its natural life cycle, but will continue to be monitored by Ashridge forestry staff. Plans for a celebration of the tree’s life and contribution to the estate are yet to be confirmed.
Much of the Harry Potter franchise was filmed in nearby Leavseden Studios, which now houses the Warner Bros Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter attraction. The Chilterns’ Ivinghoe Beacon was also where scenes for the ‘Quidditch World Cup’ were filmed.