Tree Felling

I love trees. To walk through woodland gives an instant feeling of calm and well-being. Oak trees especially seem to exude power and understanding, they seem so wise and comforting. Trees are the lungs of the planet and sadly too many forests are being cut down all over the world to make room for the needs of mankind at the expense of habitat and the planet’s health.

Unfortunately we have had reason to cut down several trees over the last few years, either our own or on behalf of our neighbours. We are lucky to be surrounded by plenty of trees but the resulting gaps always make me feel sad, even though it often means more sunshine reaches our otherwise shaded garden.

However, felling trees is sometimes necessary. In a wood or forest trees can be left pretty much to their own devices, they grow, live out their lives then fall, but by then there are young ones coming up to replace them. In our urban society it is not always possible to leave trees to die a natural death as, should they fall, they could cause damage or even worse, death to a passer-by. So it is that we have had to remove a couple of Silver Birch trees from our boundary. They had been there since long before we came to live here and possibly since before our house was first built some 50 years ago.

Silver Birches are hardy but short-lived (approximately 50-80 years), they are of medium height (15-20 metres) and fast growing (up to 2.6 metres per year). An old woodsman once told us that they are used in forestry for planting between young, more slow-growing trees, such as oak to offer protection and encourage upright growth. Once the trees they are protecting are well-grown enough the birches are removed.

We have several Silver Birches on our two roadside boundaries, all now at least 50 years old and so reaching their sell-by date. One of the two we have removed was quite rotten at the base and pretty well dead anyway. It was only being held up by the surrounding shrubs and the thick strands of ivy growing up the trunk (possibly part of the reason it had died). The other seemed quite healthy. It was more like two trees, having split into two main trunks from very near the base. One of those trunks was leaning out over our low retaining wall (our land is higher than the pavement and road and the front garden slopes upwards to the house). It was also pressing hard against the wall and in danger of pushing it over. If the tree fell it would fall across the pavement and the road and reach well over to the pavement and verge on the other side. Any person or vehicle passing as it fell would be crushed and by law we would be liable – so on advice we decided this twin tree had to be removed. The trees were felled this weekend. I regret not taking any photos before they were felled.

Now the front corner of our garden look very bare and the house, on its high vantage point, seems very exposed. The plan is to clear the corner of all the ivy and self-set Sycamore stems and then replant with an evergreen laurel hedge similar to the one on the other roadside boundary, with one or two replacement trees interspersed to provide canopy higher up and re-establish our privacy, after we have cleared all the felled wood! The trees we plant will probably be ash as we have some young ones ready to plant out.

The replacement planting will take several years to establish but further along the boundary the other existing tall shrubs and ash, holly and fir trees will be left in place. It may well be that we shall have to remove the other Silver Birches in the next few years and that will be a very sad day indeed. When that day comes it would be nice to replace them with new Silver Birches.

On the plus side the birch wood is said to burn well and warm, even when damp and the easily peeled bark is good for kindling so it will make an excellent addition to our log store, although I understand it does burn rather quickly.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. julespaige
    Apr 18, 2016 @ 12:02:07

    We were lucky that some tree parts fell without doing much damage (as they were at the back of the yard) – I think you may remember our issues with a tree across our creek (that we finally cleared), Because tree from the other side was hit by lightning and an older cottonwood on our side was also being hit by lightning twice! One time knocking down a flowering cherry. While we do not use wood as our only heat source – I was able to use some of the wood this spring to make a natural fence – I finally found the Cherry tree’s stump! Fishing season runs from April pretty much through September and some of the fisher folk seem to not want to respect private property. I’ve had to make some new ‘No Trespassing’ signs this year.

    I’ve also been lucky that birds have gifted me with some scrub pines – and I let them grow. I may not get that much sun in my backyard. Like you I enjoy my sanctuary and privacy. Trees are a wonderful gift. Good luck with your hedges and new plantings.


    • Libby
      Apr 19, 2016 @ 13:10:09

      Fortunately we don’t suffer from trespassing! It is good to be surrounded by trees, but a bit sad that they are now all getting old and no-one much bothers to plant new young ones. When we moved here there were lots of old stumps in the garden so there must have been many more trees. The land had been woodland before the houses were built so I guess many of the trees had been left in place – which is great, I only wish they would do that more these days. 🙂


  2. The Weekly Day
    Apr 18, 2016 @ 16:02:34

    Definitely consider taking a lot of pictures in the future, Libby. Especially with this story, it would help us (me?) see better. Your birch trees sound awesome. Sorry you had to remove them.


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