Churchgoers are banding together with dog walkers and Hendon residents to replace an ancient tree toppled by winter storms.

The tree was one of two cedars planted in the heart of St Mary’s graveyard in Church End, Hendon, more than 200 years ago.

Reverend Gwyn Clement called in tree experts to test the condition of the cedar last year. It was found to be sound inside and out but “sand-like” soil mixed with snow, rain and high winds proved too much for the much-loved tree which crashed to the ground last Friday.

Rev Clement said: “The churchyard will obviously not be the same without the tree and we’re very sad about that. We did everything we possibly could to protect it.”

The tree’s huge trunk used to tower above the gravestones while its branches created a canopy for churchgoers and members of the community who like to walk along the graveyard’s path.

Local historian Percy Reboul, who lives near the church, said: “This tree has always been a part of Hendon’s history. It’s a great shame it will no longer be here.”

Dr Jayne D’Onegan, who has lived in Hendon for 13 years, said: “I’ve always thought this is the most beautiful churchyard in London, with the two trees guarding the pathway to the church.

“They were like the guardian angels of St Mary’s and now one of them is gone. It’s very sad.”

Rev Clement plans to use some of the wood to make benches for the church. And with the help of the community, he is collecting donations to plant a new tree in the graveyard.

Dr D'Onegan said: "It would be fantastic if we could replace the tree - not just for us but for people who visit here in the future."

Donations can be sent to Rev Clement at 34 Parson Street, Hendon, NW4 1QR.