A MUCH loved tree which has carried an evocative poem for 169 years has toppled over after three centuries.

The Poem Tree at Castle Hill in Wittenham Clumps, near Didcot, came down this week.

The mighty beech, pictured above, and left in 1963, died in the 1990s but had been left as a natural habitat and because of the popularity of the poem.

Its base has completely rotted and it is thought the recent wet then hot weather led it to fall into a nearby hawthorn.

A crane was brought in to lower the tree to make it safe but it disintegrated while being winched to the ground.

Joseph Tubb of Warborough spent two weeks carving the 20-line poem in 1844.

It includes the lines Such is the course of time, the wreck which fate / And awful doom award the earthly great.

The tree has now been left to remain as a habitat and parts of the poem removed for display in its visitors’ centre. Harriet Henley of the Earth Trust, which manages the beauty spot, said: “People have said how sad they are.

“It is almost magical, the fact this mysterious poem appeared around 170 years ago, it is an almost tangible piece of natural history.”

The trust is considering running a competition for a youngster to write a poem for another tree at the site.