Red Spotted Toadstools


In woodland glades
red-spotted toadstools appear.
October colours.


Silver Birch Trees

Following on from my post a few weeks ago about felling some Silver Birch trees in our front garden I thought perhaps I would give you a little update. Having apologised for failing to take any photos it was pointed out to me that these would have been helpful so I now have a couple for you.

Garden Gap

The first shows the gap in our frontage. You will see that we are on a corner plot, the two roads both clearly visible and amazingly with no traffic on them. The nearest road (in shadow) is the one our driveway leads onto and is relatively traffic free in any case. The other runs along our north-eastern boundary and is one of the main roads in to and out of our small town so can be busy, especially during the morning and evening ‘rush hours’. The photo is looking north towards the centre of town, which is  beyond the houses you can see.

You probably can’t see too well, due to the shadow, that we have already done some replanting with young laurels and holly, as well as staking some of the self-set trees that we are retaining for the time being. These are  Sycamore, which are little more than weeds and not our choice, but at least they are already there and will provide some leaf cover for the time it takes the other planting to establish. The stump from the trunk that was leaning over and pushing the wall is to the left of the gap, against the remaining trees and we are not able to replant that spot just yet.

This second photo looks towards the north-eastern boundary and the houses on the other side of the main road. Once all the trees and hedging are in full leaf we can usually see very little of the houses.

Silver Birches

There are four of our other Silver Birches shown in the photo, all with ivy smothering their trunks. We have made some effort to kill this off but it grows rampantly around here and soon recovers! You will note that the two trees on the right are just coming into leaf, however there are no leaves (apart from the ivy) showing on the two trees to the left. It appears that they are probably already dead and will in fact have to come out rather sooner than we thought. Such a shame.

It saddens me that we have to take these trees down. I do enjoy the privacy they give us from the nearby houses and the feeling of almost living in a woodland that they provide. When we moved here some eleven years ago, downsizing from our small-holding out-of-town, it was the number of trees surrounding the property that was one of the main things attracting us to it. Even though many tree species can out-live us it is a sad fact that trees also have a limited life-span; in the case of Silver Birches very similar to that of humans! When these have to go we will replace them, though it will be many years before they provide the same degree of cover.

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.

Roadside Scene

Stretched out in line across the field like sentinels,
backs to the motorway, the watchful guns
stand patiently alert and waiting for
the unseen Beaters to flush the backdrop woodland.
Long before the sounds of death and dying ricochet
the road we travel has carried us away.

Site content copyright of Elizabeth Leaper (Libby).

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