When a tree falls…

I’ve mentioned before that I am a trustee for a small local conservation charity at a place called Denmark Farm. We run courses on all sorts of subjects related to the environment, from plant identification to love spoon carving; from vegetation survey to felt-making. Plus we have lovely self-catering accommodation, where visitors can stay in our eco-friendly lodge and get close to nature on our 40-acre site…. ok, advert over…

Anyway, yesterday I was up there at a meeting when one of the members of staff mentioned that a visitor had reported that an oak tree was down somewhere near the bottom of the site. Once we’d finished talking about courses for the coming year, a couple of us decided to go and investigate the tree and see what needed doing. Last week, Wales experienced winds exceeding 100mph, so we were not surprised that a tree had come down. We were not, however, prepared for the shock of what we found  (I went back and took the following pictures today):

The first view

The first view

A closer look, with Mr Snail-of-happiness for scale

A closer look, with Mr Snail-of-happiness for scale (he’s 6 feet tall)

You can see from the second picture, that the ground had come away with the tree… and further investigation revealed that it wasn’t just one tree, but a 35 metre stretch of beech trees growing on a bank along our boundary.

Thirty-five metres further on, you come to the end of the devastation

Thirty-five metres further on, you come to the end of the devastation

We slipped next door to examine the bank from the other side:

A 35m stretch of bank rotated through 90 degrees

A 35m stretch of bank rotated through 90 degrees

A little further along, there was a shorter length down too:

Shorter length of bank over, with Mr S-o-h for scale

Shorter length of bank over, with Mr S-o-h for scale (only two trees in this section)

The beech trees growing on this bank were about 12-14 m (36-40 feet) tall and one that we measured had a trunk circumference of more than 2 m (6 feet):

Measuring the girth

Measuring the girth

All these trees have multiple stems, and we couldn’t get in amongst them to count how many are down, but there are probably 10 in total. However, they are all beech trees and the visitors said that the tree they saw was an oak, so our search continued.

Back along the boundary, we came across another problem:

Pine across the path

Pine across the path

This one is over the path, and is only upright because it is caught in the canopy of adjacent trees:

Being held up by its neighbours

Being held up by its neighbours

But, that’s not an oak either, so we continued our hunt when we went back today. There were quite a number of young trees down too, but fortunately none of our big mature oaks. Sadly, however, we did come a cross two of our smaller, old and very knarly trees that had been blown over. One oak across the green lane:

All taped off so no one walks underneath

All taped off so no one walks underneath

And one hawthorn that narrowly missed the main building:

A few feet taller and it would have been through the windows and roof

A few feet taller and it would have been through the windows and roof

We cordoned off all the dangerous parts, but now there’s lots to be done to make the site safe for visitors and convert the wood into both fuel and wildlife habitat. It does bring home the power of nature… really the pictures don’t do justice to the size and number of trees that are down.

You can read more about it all in my post on the Denmark Farm blog.

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17 Comments

  1. Linda Winn

     /  February 19, 2014

    Good work Mr and Mrs S-O-H, on oh so many levels!

    Reply
  2. I’m intrigued by the way the beech trees came down. it looks as if something has kept their roots from penetrating into the subsoil, instead forming a dense, shallow mat. Thoughts?

    Reply
    • It’s really wet, and I suspect that reduces rooting depth, but according to the Forestry Commission beech only has rooting depth less than 2m, compared to a depth of 4m for oak.

      Reply
  3. They look as if they’ve been sliced off with an electric carving knife. I wonder if the fact that they were initially laid as hedging has something to do with the extreme shallowness of the root system. Beeches normally establish a large and wide-spreading buttress root system, perhaps because they don’t go down deep. BTW, very fetching hat Mr SoH is sporting there, some of your handwork?

    Reply
  4. It must have been a very distressing walk for you and Mr SOH. It is always so sad to see those magnificent trees damaged. It will be a big task for the committee to clean up.

    Reply
    • I was truly shocked… so many trees! And the bank lifted up in tact was astonishing. Still, it’s a natural process and will give some of the new trees chance to grow.

      Reply
      • You are so right, and I love the way you are able to see those positives at a time that was difficult for you. Change is confronting, but necessary.

        Reply
  5. Such a shame that they can’t be lifted and re-established. I do realise it’s virtually impossible and also prohibitively expensive and I also applaud the great uses the wood will be put to. It just makes me so sad to see trees die.You must have been upset.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    Reply
    • I kept looking at them and thinking that they looked like children’s toys, pushed over at the end of a game… we just need a giant to stand them back up! Actually I’m seriously wondering whether we might be able to cut them to stumps and then get a skilled digger driver to pull the bank back in place in the hope that we will get the stumps to resprout and form a coppice.
      xx hugs xx

      Reply
  6. Amazing to see the whole bank lifted up like that. I always hate to see trees that have come down, you were lucky that no real damage was done to anything else.

    Gum trees can be shallow rooted (and tall and heavy) so when they fall they always make a huge messy hole like that too, not quite so wide though!
    After weeks of extreme heat we have had a big downpour overnight and now quite a breezy day. Previous experience has shown that to be good conditions for a few tired trees to decide they need a lie down over the next few days. Hopefully none in my garden!

    At least you have a good amount of potential firewood now, maybe even some nice wood for some creative soul to make furniture from the bigger trunks too.

    Reply
  7. That is a one hell of a wind!!!

    Reply
  8. Wow! That’s one heck of a wind. It’s a shame to see so many trees downed, but hopefully it’ll give others room to grow and you’ll find a clever way to re-purpose the fallen.

    Reply
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