IT has stood tall in the heart of Hampshire for 400 years.

Towering more than 50 metres above the grounds of the Swan Inn pub in Lyndhurst, it is one of the memorable landmarks of the New Forest skyline.

But now the gigantic beech tree, which dates back to the Stuart era in British history, is being cut down because it is suffering from a fatal tree disease which is destroying its roots.

More than six tree surgeons from HRG Tree Services, based in Southampton, bravely scaled the tall tree – the height of 13 double decker buses – by hand to remove the branches.

Today they will begin work to remove the main trunk.

Harry Barnes, 68, landlord of the Swan Inn, spotted that the tree had a deadly fungus when he visited the pub before he took up the reins back in October last year.

He immediately set about the tree’s removal as one of his first jobs at the pub, which he runs with his wife Sibyl.

He said: “I have mixed emotions about the tree being removed. It is a lovely old tree, but it is looking a bit sorry for itself now.

“I was amazed at how dramatic the whole operation was. It looked like a dangerous job and they are very brave to do what they did.”

The tree had to be removed because it is near a children’s play area in the pub’s back garden, and the disease eats away at the roots, weakening the tree and increasing the risk of it toppling during high winds.

Manager of HRG Tree Services, Henri Ghijben, believes that it is the biggest beech tree his company has removed in the New Forest.