• One to watch

    About four years back I pollarded this ash tree in the bottom corner of the garden. It had twin leaders & I was concerned that if I left it to develop into a tall tree I was looking at a potential failure point in the face of windy weather. When I pollarded there were only a few ash trees in the vicinity that were infected with ash dieback, but in that intervening period some around here have died and many more are showing signs of the disease, with an apparent acceleration this spring. I knew that ash dieback tends to most readily infect new growth and young trees so it was always going to be a bit of a risk pollarding.

    Sadly, the tree appears to have ash dieback this year (and I suspoect there was a bit last year). In an attempt to try and quash the infection I spent a morning last week cutting out all the diseased material I could find, which included some branches displaying the classic diamond lesions. Now all I can do is watch and wait to see how the tree reacts, adapts and continues to fight infection. It's hard to know exactly how far in the pathogen has gone, but where I cut the branches away there was no obvious tissue darkening that might indicate its presence.

    As far as I know there has been little work done to determine how trimmed trees can fight back & survive AD - it's too labour intensive in the greater scheme of things, but let's see what happens....

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  • Demise of an old friend

    When all about us is chaotic and filled with worry and uncertainty it seems almost trivial to talk of losing an old friend tree, but it's what I feel. For thirty years I have walked past a large ash tree in the bottom of Brockhampton Woods near Bromyard that bears a huge burr about ten feet from the ground which always reminded my of some uncanny yet benevolent tree beast (I hesitate to say spirit - all a bit too esoteric perhaps). I love discovering anthropomorphic aspects in trees - yews always great candidates, but ash very seldom. It used to make me wonder if I was the only one who passed by this tree and saw what I saw, but I'm guessing (hoping) it wasn't just me and that others will mourn this trees passing.

    I incorporated its image in my recent book "ASH", posing the question as to how long it might survive, either to the ravages of ash dieback or the buzz and snarl of the forester's chainsaw. The latter event has been its untimely end. I walked down into the wood a couple of days back and it seems the National Trust have decided to have a culling of all the large ashes - probably to make some revenue from the timber before the trees are hit by ash dieback, or perhaps it's for safety reasons as the public walk the woods. It's rather sad that the foresters couldn't spare this incredibly characterful tree with its rare and weird protuberance. Just maybe they could have tried turning it into a pollard. Nope! Down it came with the rest, although I notice that someone has tried to cut off the front of the 'face', but without total success (probably the bar on the chainsaw wasn't quite long enough). However, they did succeed with a smaller section off the back of the burr. The inside is truly beautiful with swirling, eddying contours. I'm guessing that the huge front face will be even more fascinating. I estimate that the tree was probably about 100 years old and I suspect that the burr had been growing from its very early years, but what on earth caused it to happen in the first place?

    I will miss this old brooding ash tree chum.

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  • Long Coppice - gem on the doorstep

    It never ceases to amaze me how little gems appear right on the doorstep after living here for 30 years. Burley Gate is a village about 1.5 miles from here & after seeing a picture of wood anemones posted on Instagram by our friend Trudie Ballantyne I was intrigued to find out more about this little wood.

    The wood is a narrow band of ancient woodland running down between two large fields. Late 19th century maps name it as Long Coppice.... which is exactly what it is.... and thankfully still is, as someone seems to be managing it very nicely. The light coming in between the well cut coppice stools - mainly of hazel and ash - has encouraged the ground flora and the current display of wood anemones is truly breathtaking. Can't remember when I last saw such a sight. Thanks Trudie and Nick for the heads up on this one.

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  • Time to help our trees along

    Over the last three or four years we've been slowly working on many of our fruit trees in the orchard - pruning (sometimes quite hard pruning) and the removal of most of the mistletoe, and the results have been varied. The fruit yields were very poor on many of the trees with large infestations of mistletoe and there were many dead, dying and crossed boughs. Of the dozen or so trees that we hit hard three have simply turmed up their toes (they were probably on their way out anyway), a couple are still struggling and the others seem to have rallied pretty well with lots of new growth last year.

    I'm convinced that mistletoe is becoming increasingly agressive/demanding upon the trees it colonises, sapping their vigour considerably. Here's an example of just one of the Bramleys that I worked on last week. It took about 5 hours to clear all the mistletoe and it was everywhere - not just big bunches but innumerable tiny sprigs bursting alien-like all along the boughs. It's now wait&see time.

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  • Hatch Park history

    The latest addition to the historical archive is this slightly wacky image of six people decking the boughs of an ancient hornbeam pollard in Hatch Park, near Ashford in Kent. Dating from around 1880 it's a cabinet size albumen print taken by Robert Stirling (I can find no mention of Stirling as a professional photographer in Kent). This is extremely off-beat for a group photograph of this period. Who were they? Whatever possessed them?

    What this photograph does show rather well is a recently pollarded ancient hornbeam - trees that had already been associated with the deer park and its related woodland at Hatch Park for many centuries and, indeed, still very much the case today with an ongoing conservation strategy to maintain these very special trees. I was there nine years ago and photographed several thriving examples of these hornbeams - a native tree of course, but its range very much associated with south-east England.

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Archie Miles photography

Archie's Blog

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