29 November 2013

Looking at trees

One of my favourite jobs at this time of year is looking at trees. If that sounds like a pretty cushy occupation I'd better explain further. As a large landowner, the National Trust 'owns' a lot of trees and because many of those trees come into contact with people and property we need to make sure they are safe.
November and December is the perfect time to undertake Tree Safety Inspections and responsibility for that falls to our Forest Ranger, Richard. But because we've got thousands of trees and only one Richard, some of the other Rangers and I help him out a bit and that's how I found myself one lovely bright afternoon walking around Sawrey looking at trees.

The first thing to look at is the crown of the tree. Is there any dead wood or any broken-off branches hanging up in the tree? Are the branches unbalanced, with too much weight on one side of the tree?
The next thing to look at is the root plate (the area around the trunk where the roots go into the ground). Has the swaying of the tree moved the soil around the roots? This might indicate a problem with root decay. Are there any fungi present in the area? Again a possible sign of decay underground.
On the trunk of the tree we need to look for cavities or splits as well as fungi which might weaken the trunk. Some specialised tools are needed for this bit, namely a rubber mallet and a long screwdriver ground to a point! The mallet is for knocking on the trunk to identify any hollow areas and the screwdriver is to probe into any cavities to see how far in they go. The spray paint is for marking any trees which require the attention of our Forestry Team.

Tools of the trade

I'm happy to say that on my walk around Sawrey I found all the trees to be in good health and identified no potential hazards. I did find a couple of interesting specimens though.

The first was one of the many magnificent ash trees in the area which is in the process of consuming a section of iron railings!

The second interesting tree is actually three trees in one. The original tree is a pollarded ash which in its old age has begun to decay and is playing host to not one but two different species.

Three for the price of one, earlier in the year.

Ash, Rowan and Yew.
You can see from the photos but there is a rowan tree and a yew both growing happily in the decaying wood of the original ash trunk although the rowan has now got its roots into the ground as well.

So if you've got nothing more pressing on this weekend go out and have a really good look at the trees in your garden, local park or National Trust property. Give them a hug too while you're at it.

For my musical link this month I could have gone for 'Shaking the Tree' by Peter Gabriel or the excellent 'Bend Down the Branches' by Tom Waits but finally plumped for this .

Bye for now.

Words and pictures by Pete the Gardener