THE felling of trees beside the railway line in Colwall has infuriated villagers and prompted one to put her house on the market.

Rail operator Network Rail has been carrying out the work, between the tunnel at the Malvern Hills and the village station, as part of a national project to improve safety.

Dicken Justice-Courier, who lives opposite the station, is furious that the trees, which have screened her home from the railway for years, have been chopped down. Now she has decided to sell up.

"We're now totally exposed to everything," she said. "We knew it had to be done but we didn't realise just how much like a desert it would be. This has done it for me. They are just killing the wildlife and for what?"

Neighbour Lilian Stockton said the work had decimated the landscape and wildlife.

"Not only does it look terrible but if they're doing this nationally that's thousands or millions of homeless birds who are now without a habitat," she said.

Network Rail spokesman Callum Collins confirmed that the company had been carrying out work on cuttings and embankments in Colwall and Ledbury.

"A tree falling on the track is dangerous and could derail a train," he said. "Several of the trees had fallen and were being held up by others. Trees in railway cuttings are often poor specimens and very unstable because the cuttings are so steep."

Sarah Ayling, chief executive of the Herefordshire Nature Trust, said they recognised that the work had to be done but had been concerned that sprays used on tree stumps could reach a pond containing great-crested newts.

However, Network Rail contractors have now assured the trust that they will paint herbicides on to tree stumps to avoid the possibility of pollution.

Ms Ayling said: "There will be some loss of woodland which could potentially be habitat for nesting birds but they are doing it at the right time of year, outside of bird breeding season."

Although Colwall is part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Malvern Hills officer David Armitage said work on railway property was governed by its own set of planning regulations.

"We can't do anything about it," he said.