Noble Oak

The noble Oak
holds on to his russet leaves,
staving off the time
when Holly will take his crown.

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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.

Site content copyright of Elizabeth Leaper (Libby).

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