Half of Europe's largest elm tree falls in bad weather in Brighton

The tree has been in Preston Park for 500 years

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Credits: David McHugh/Brighton Pictures

Nature lovers have been left heartbroken after one of the world's oldest elm trees split in two.

The giant tree - one of the 'Preston Twins' - was partially destroyed by high winds in Brighton on Saturday.

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It dates back to 1613 - when William Shakespeare's plays were first performed and James I was on the throne.

The Preston Twins are widely regarded as the oldest elms in the world and are a major tourist attraction.

They have avoided Dutch Elm Disease thanks to stringent measures adopted by council chiefs in Brighton.

The trees are checked daily and regularly pruned to ensure their hollow stems will not collapse.

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Dutch Elm Disease has killed more than 60 million trees but between 25,000 and 30,000 elms remain in Brighton.

Earlier this year several elms in Preston Park were felled following the spread of the disease.

Experts warned the warm weather was putting the Preston Twins at risk but it is not known if they are infected.

A spokesperson for Brighton and Hove Council said: "A large section of one of our 'Preston Twins' fell down in the bad weather.

"We are busy clearing up what has fallen, and will then need to do some extra pruning to make sure the tree is safe.

"Once this is done our tree experts will assess the condition of the tree and consider whether further action is needed.

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"It's a magnificent tree and we will do everything in our powers to try and make sure it can survive."

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