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.
Trees may need to be removed for many reasons. The tree may be dead, dangerous or diseased. It may be in an inappropriate location or perhaps it is just not wanted any more.
There are various way to fell a tree. Straight felling is cutting the tree at the base with a directional felling cut (it looks like a wedge of cake or chese removed in the direction you want the tree to fall). If there is not enough room to straight fell a tree, as in most London gardens, then the tree needs to be dismantled in small pieces. This can be difficult to control so lowering ropes and friction devices would be used to lower large bits of wood to the ground in a safe and controlled manor.
In most London back gardens the wood needs to be cut into small bits and carried out by hand or in a wheelbarrow. Sometimes for very large or very dangerous akward trees, and where access will allow a crane can be used.
Unfortunately the wood from felled trees, especially in London, is cut up so small it cannot be used for anything except fire wood. However, if the right tree species and circumstances occur sometimes bowls can be turned or planks milled from the timber.
Wherever possible we advise to replace a felled tree by replanting with the same species or a more appropriate species for the location.
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.
The tree surgeons at The Tree Company (London) use many tools to help carry out the various tree related operations involved in Arboriculture. Tree surgeons need a few hand tools including sledgehammers, stake drivers for planting and the humble axe. They are all important members of the tool box.
There are a few different types of axe, including the splitting axe and the felling axe. They are a versatile tool and are not limited to felling or splitting. These days we use chainsaws to fell trees but the axe is used to split wood, either for fire wood or just to make big logs smaller so we can extract timber from those small London gardens. The hand tools we use take a pounding and they do break from time to time.
An axe head is like an old friend, so we are keen not just to replace them when they break. We take them to a tool merchant where the broken handles are loving replaced for us, using air-dried ash wood. It does not take long and that old axe head lives to fight another day.
The Tree Company (London) had a good presence at the 2013 ARB Show. Two of us managed to miss the rain and attended on Friday.
We saw the presentation by Vikki Bengtsson from The Ancient Tree Forum on veteran pruning techniques. The coronet cut was demonstrated by some tree surgeons, with a safe and time efficient method being shown. Our tree surgeons at The Tree Company (London) have been using the coronet cut in Richmond Park in South West London, and selected other sites, for a good few years now and it is a pleasure to see the technique becoming common practice.
We also saw a great collection of vintage chainsaws with none of the safety features that come as standard on modern machines. Three of our tree surgeons attended on Saturday when it rained a fair bit but that didn't dampen the spirits. The climbing competition was the point of focus, with some good competition and techniques on show.
We will be going to see two giants of the tree world on Tuesday the 24th at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in West London, http://www.trees.org.uk/aa/news/ISA-CAS-Expert-s-Question-Time-152.html. Jeremy Barrell and Dr David Lonsdale will be talking and taking questions on tree safety in light of recent court decisions. It should be fun and very informative.