No evidence Sir David Attenborough made viral comments about HS2

18 May 2021
What was claimed

Sir David Attenborough said “words fail me” over the felling of a 300 year-old tree for an HS2 service road.

Our verdict

There is no evidence Sir David ever made these comments.

A viral Facebook post has attributed a comment about a tree being felled for HS2 construction to broadcaster Sir David Attenborough. 

Similar posts, which appear to quote Sir David comparing the age of a tree to historic events such as the first patented steam engine, have appeared elsewhere, including on Twitter where they have also been shared thousands of times. 

But while the posts have been shared repeatedly, Full Fact could find no reports of Sir David ever actually saying these words. Older versions of the quote we can find, from October last year, do not attribute the words to Sir David.

While the naturalist has often been referenced in articles by those opposing HS2, it doesn’t appear that he has ever commented specifically on the felling of trees along the route. 

The closest involvement Sir David seems to have had publicly with any campaign surrounding the project appears to be reports of his support for the Walton Hall estate. The property is the historic home of early conservationist Charles Waterton and the site of what some have described as the first nature reserve. The campaign aimed to have the estate recognised for its cultural importance by the United Nations in a bid to stop HS2 from running through the site. Full Fact has not seen a copy of this letter and it’s unclear if it mentioned HS2 at all.

It is true that the picture shows a tree felled for an HS2 service road. It appears to have been taken in September 2020, and captures the felling of the Hunningham Oak near Leamington, Warwickshire with local reports identifying it as being 300 years old.

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as false because it doesn’t appear that Sir David Attenborough ever actually made the comments attributed to him.

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