At the end of last year and beginning of this we had some strong storms in London and the rest of the UK. Not since 1987 have the tree surgeons of the country been so busy. In October, December and January Great Britain was battered by strong winds peaking at around one hundred miles an hour.
Thousands of trees fell across the country, a dozen people were killed and communications were severely disrupted.
One of the contributory factors to the many trees that fell was the amount of rain we had over the autumn and winter; as the ground was saturated the soil became loose and trees were more easily uprooted.
Here at The Tree Company we were inundated with calls for help from the local community in west and southwest London. On Christmas eve we had 4 men in Richmond Park clearing fallen limbs and trees, and 2 months later we were still tidying up damaged trees and branches caught in the crowns of trees.
One particularly special tree that was another victim of the storms was a great tree of London (see: Time Out book Great Trees of London). The copper beech at Asgill house in Richmond was damaged beyond repair. We removed all the remaining limbs and it is now a standing monolith which is great habitat for fungus, invertebrates and birds.
During the months of May to August tree surgeons around London, particularly in the South West of London, are increasingly having to deal with Oak Processionary Moth or OPM. OPM is an invasive species of moth that when in the caterpillar stage has toxic hairs that can cause skin irritation and respiratory problems. If the caterpillars get to plague proportions they can defoliate a whole tree. They are predominantly found in oak trees but can also be found in other species of tree.
Our tree surgeons at The Tree Company (London) Ltd are working with the Royal Parks and other clients to control the spread of OPM in local London areas. We do this in a number of ways. As the caterpillars grow they can be sprayed with an insecticide. Once the caterpillars start to pupate they form silk nests in trees which have to be manually removed by climbing trees with a rope and harness and/or using a cherry picker (MEWP) to access the nests. The Tree Company's tree surgeons have to wear full personal protective equipment to protect them from contact with the toxic hairs. As you can imagine, in weather like we have had recently it can be a bit of an uncomfortable job!
OPM has been in the country for a few years now and spreads quickly, we at The Tree Company are working hard with our clients to try and control its spread. With hard work and dedicated workers we may have a chance.