This week: The Scuttling Tree of
The Scuttling tree as it can be seen at present. It has been stationary for the past eight years although still closely monitored. It sits at 52.035/-3.193 and is on private land, but can be viewed by looking over the fence.
Of all the strange, weird, odd and just plain outlandish items to be discovered in Powys, the 'Scuttling tree' of Llandeilo Graban is surely one of the strangest. Unusual for a tree, it can actually lift its roots clean from the ground and move in an odd scuttling motion, the tips of its roots moving rapidly in a manner not unlike that of a spider.
The first sighting was in November 2002 when it was captured on a GATSO speed camera on the A470 near Erwood bridge clocking a healthy 42 MPH. Suspecting a prank the police ignored it, but fifteen more speeding incidents over the next three years followed, plus eight occasions of being double-parked and one charge of dangerously overtaking on the brow of a hill - a tally that would have seen the tree, if convicted, with a seven year driving ban. Soon after, the police handed over all the evidence to the University of Lampeter's Aberrant Arboreal Research group.
A closer shot of the prehensile root structure. The photographer was wearing full protective equipment in case of sudden movement or attack, and had removed all wooden objects from his person in case such an action might have been viewed as 'provocative'. The snow helps to accentuate the 'tippy-toe' feel of the root structure.
After extensive research, the tree was thought to be related to the Robbing Willow, the now-extinct variety of criminal genus salix that Gerald of Wales accused of stealing three half-sovereigns and a 'healthy mare plus saddle and a half bottle of mead, much missed' from him while travelling to Holyhead in 1185. (The Robbing Willow was caught and cornered at Strata Florida in 1192, and as far as is known, was made into three chairs, an occasional table and a spare peg-leg for a local landowner) The existence of the Robbing Willow was also thought to have inspired John Wyndham's classic tale: 'The Day of the Triffids'
'We knew pretty much what it was,' explained Professor Beech, head of the research group, 'as walking trees are a rare but not unheard of feature of the Welsh countryside, so we were more interested in its motivation. By analysing its likes and dislikes we were hoping to build up an inner picture of arboreal intelligence, something that is notoriously difficult to study, as normal tree movement - swaying in a strong wind, losing limbs and occasionally falling over - give few insights into how they actually feel.'
A newly released shot that seems to show the Scuttling tree taking a much-needed drink during the summer of 2007
'We discovered for the most part that it enjoyed hanging around shopping centres after dark, evidence that it might have teenager tendencies. It was also well known to enjoy television, usually on a Saturday night, as residents in the Rhayder area reported it looking in windows, usually during reruns of Bergerac and Midsomer Murders, indicating a fondness for John Nettles'.
'The sightings dwindled from 2006, quite possibly as a result of the tree being implicated in a break-in at a sawmill in Newtown, where several bandsaws and planing machines were vandalised, and 700 metres of 4X2 released from a caged enclosure.
The scuttling tree, never very savvy to CCTV was caught on camera hanging around the rear entrance some hours before. The leaked footage eventually went viral on Youtube under the title: 'When Trees Get Mad as hell and just can't take it anymore'. Other pro-arboreal attacks followed, leading for the first time in Welsh history that a tree had been named a 'plant of interest' in an ongoing investigation.'
The Scuttling tree in a rare daylight photograph outside the Dragon Takeaway in Llandrindod Wells. Although it did not seem to order anything, nor try to pick anything up, an order in a 'gruff voice' ordered a Special Chow Mein and prawn crackers earlier that evening, both of which were never claimed.
With the police closing in, the scuttling tree seemed to have hidden itself from view and was seen rarely during the last eight months of its activity. It was witnessed apparently encouraging a newly-planted field of saplings to escape, and on another occasion, unlocking the gates of a plant nursery, presumably to assist other plants to escape, although none did.
A chance encounter with a tourist taking a picture of the Clearwen dam in the Elan Valley shows the Scuttling tree actually moving - later analysis of the film showed it was going at a healthy 23MPH.
Following a failed Filling Station holdup in Llyswen in September 2008, the tree was chased by police to a field near Aberlynffi where, threatened by officers armed with paraquat, it stopped moving, either through despondency or lack of energy, and has steadfastly refused to move since, despite being constantly monitored and with verbal threats of being made into a knotty pine recreation room.
Subsequent core samples revealed little, other than it was a normal tree of the genus Rhaphiolepis. The method by which it was able to move remained a mystery, as are its motivations, although criminal intent linked with arboreal social justice has not been ruled out. Although static now for twelve years, the tree is constantly monitored as its continued perambulations around the county are not only theorised, but expected.
Written & Conceived 29th March 2020.