A NEW tree is set to be planted in honour of a Teesdale woman who became the first person in her village to celebrate her 100th birthday.

In August 1978, Jane Liddle helped plant a commemorative copper beech tree on Cockfield village green to celebrate the landmark.

Although she died the following February, her grandson, Peter Vart, has looked after it ever since, making sure to visit Cockfield once or twice a year to see the tree was in good condition and carry out any pruning or other work that was needed.

However, he was shocked to discover on his most recent visit that the tree was missing – it had been chopped off at ground level.

“My grandmother lived in the village her whole life. She was very active in the community and well respected,” said Mr Vart, who lives in Mowden, Darlington.

“The parish council at the time asked if she would mind taking part in something to mark her 100th birthday and it turned out to be the planting of a copper beech tree on the green.

“She was the only person in Cockfield to have made it to 100 and a crowd of people came along as well as Tyne Tees and The Northern Echo.”

Mr Vart, 75, said the original tree was vandalised, but a replacement copper beech had stood in its place for at least the last 30 years.

“It was a substantial tree and I have gone up at least once a year, sometimes every six months, to look after it,” he said.

“When I went up most recently, it was not there. It had been sawn off level with the ground. I was totally shocked.”

Cockfield Parish Council is responsible for the maintenance of the green and unfortunately, it was discovered Jane Liddle's copper beech was one of two or three trees which had died and had to be cut down.

However, the parish council is in the process of buying replacement trees, one of which will be a copper beech.

Members of the parish council are due to meet tonight (Tuesday, December 4) when members will be asked to support a proposal to replant the copper beech in her honour.