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Real or fake? Christmas tree clash in St Michaels near Tenterden

The issue of which is best - a real or artificial Christmas tree - has proved a prickly one for a village.

But the great Christmas tree debate has been solved in St Michaels where both tree types have been installed after a row erupted over an artificial one.

The towering artificial specimen became a thorny subject when it was imported from the United States in 2014.

The artificial tree at The Point, St Michaels
The artificial tree at The Point, St Michaels

Paid for by St Michaels ward councillor John Link, when he was mayor of Ashford, its £2,000 cost raised eyebrows and offended traditionalists who wanted to see a real tree in place.

But real tree enthusiasts in the village are now being catered for with a sprawling fir less than half a mile away from the artificial version.

The artificial tree stands at The Point, opposite The Crown pub in the centre of St Michaels, while the real tree has been placed on the edge of the village at Ox Lane Green, near the Fat Ox pub.

The real tree near the Fat Ox pub St Michaels
The real tree near the Fat Ox pub St Michaels

Cllr Jean Curteis of the St Michaels Community Group, who installed the manufactured fir, said that an artificial tree was by far the most environmentally-friendly and practical solution.

She said: "There is restricted vision at the junction of Grange Road and the A28 into Tenterden and a natural tree of that size has a wide span at its base."

Cllr Curteis said that prominent branches would have to be lopped off to keep sight lines clear but the artificial tree was in proportion.

She added: "The tree is more environmentally-friendly as its already lasted four years and doesn't get chopped up every year [like a real tree]."

Speaking when the artificial specimen was first installed, villager Alan Ormston said he recalled the days when school children placed handmade gifts on a real tree outside The Crown.

He wrote to our sister title the Kentish Express: “Being a traditionalist, I am not sure I can believe a tree that is the height of our village sign, with 3,000 lights, matches what I imagine to be a traditional Christmas tree.

“Are we an English village and should we not try to portray that ethos to people who pass through our village?”

Cllr Ken Mulholland has thrown his weight firmly in the real tree camp and after Tenterden Town Council maintenance staff rigged up the electrics to illuminate a tree at nearby Ox Green, he has secured sponsors to ensure villagers can admire the real thing.

St Michaels residents at the switch on of the real tree lights
St Michaels residents at the switch on of the real tree lights

Describing it as "the people's tree" he said: "A real Christmas tree brings a lot of cheer to this end of the village.

"It's more environmentally-friendly than artificial ones that are often imported from the Far East and contain lots of plastic and metal."

He said that it takes many years of life before a plastic tree can outweigh a real one in terms of doing less damage to the environment.

But Cllr Mulholland added: "I think there is room in St Michaels for both types of trees."

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