Oh dear, it’s been quite some time since I’ve done my blog and it’s time to catch up from a few months ago…
One part of the estate team’s work is the continuing tree surgery- both for Health and Safety reasons and also to prolong the life of the mature and veteran trees at Wimpole.
This year it was just a good friend (Ben Bardell) and myself tackling it plus the odd occasional day with Cerian from the garden department helping out. As you may have guessed the work was carried out in early spring- March to be exact. That’s so we didn’t affect any nesting birds or roosting bats. There were certainly some stunning views from the treetops.
There was one particular walnut tree that had an unbalanced crown which needed to be reduced to make it more stable. However, on climbing up the offending tree, I came across a huge cavity that was not obvious from below. No chance was I climbing any higher! It had to be topped out at this point but actually this made it look a lot better and will hopefully allow the tree to live another fifty to a hundred years or so.
Another tree was a horse chestnut and, although it had been reduced some years back, it was time to shorten the limb even more to prevent it from shearing off the main trunk. Of note was the water filled rot hole, a most suitable site for the maggots of the very rare golden hoverfly plus many other deadwood invertebrates. Just one of the reasons to retain these old veteran trees.
Of all the trees we did one stood out because of the damage done to the roots. It was an oak tree in the overflow carpark. It’s a sad fact that most trees in such situations do not tolerate the effects of soil compaction and vehicles parking near or under trees always produce a detrimental effect. The affected trees die back and the resulting deadwood has to be removed in high risk areas like the overflow carpark.
Sometimes the compaction can be alleviated by blasting the soil with jets of high pressure air to crack the soil and get oxygen back into the soil but it’s best to avoid having trees in carparks unless they have been ‘specially planned for.
Another area we had to do on grounds of promoting the trees’ lives was behind the Hall in the short North Avenue. Many of the lime trees here were showing signs of dieback in the crown which was probably a sign that the roots were not so well. Reducing the crowns by around 30% would /should allow the trees to retrench themselves and throw out lots of strong new growth.
We had a veteran sycamore tree to do in the North Park; again this was to prolong the tree’s life as it has many rare deadwood insects associated with it (most notably the rusty red click beetle). However… I was rather alarmed to find a geocache box beneath the tree. Why was I alarmed? Basically, someone had put the geocache under a tree that had many hazards associated with it: alone in the Park and far from the madding crowd it posed no risk to passers by but, as soon as you encourage people to go under such trees, you have increased the risk of an accident happening. A golden rule of mine is to try to avoid putting seats, paths or things like geocaches under veteran trees or trees with hazards and these also tend to be the best habitats for bats, deadwood insects, birds etc.
It was never ending… tree after tree after tree and then the last few limes in the ‘One and a Half Avenue’. One tree was almost dead but we reduced it to a hulk leaving the limbs looking like they had been ripped asunder in a storm ( actually it’s called a coronet cut).
The last tree to do this winter was a rather large, nasty ash tree that had been blown over in a storm and had fallen into a smaller walnut tree. The six ton Igland winch couldn’t budge it so there was nothing for it other than to climb the walnut and begin the long and treacherous job of removing the canopy.
After clearing up the ash tree we winched the walnut out of the ground so as to keep the bole. Walnut boles and a short section of the trunk can be used to make very expensive shotgun or rifle butts/stocks but, alas, once we cut into the trunk we found that the heartwood was not sufficient enough- you win some, you lose some…