Hazel, willow, beef and storytelling from Bedfordshire

Landmark tree surgery

cow bridge ash will have some surgery to reduce its limbs. this will lower and centralise its centre of gravity and hopefully make it less likely to fall over.

Gravenhurst has few landmarks. Two ancient churches, a charming methodist chapel, a Victorian school house, a village hall. Our river and its bridges are modest in scale, our hills unmountainous. But we do have something that is very much worthy of note, and that’s a tree.  If I asked where you’d find ‘here be dragons’ carved into a tree, many locals would immediately recognise it as being from the oak door in the side of the Cow Bridge Ash.

This very old ash pollard* sits alongside the River Hitt, Cow Bridge and the footpath that connects Upper Gravenhurst with Meppershall and Shillington. It is certainly a landmark, recognised not only locally, but, Google it and you’ll find the Woodland Trust’s Veteran Tree Inventory where it is described in some detail… “an ancient ash tree of 4.18m girth at a height of 1.6m”. For the inexperienced tree measurer, that makes it an exceptionally large tree, particularly for an ash.

The tree has a troubled recent history; it was set alight some years ago and is now, along with pretty much all of its ash fellows, suffering from ash dieback. It’s full of holes which make it a valuable site for nesting birds and bees but adds to a feeling that it’s not well. But there’s life in it still.

As this tree is on our farm, we are responsible for it.  To make sure it’s safe and, as far as anyone can be sure, isn’t about to fall over on a passerby, we have sought advice from Gravenhurst’s own tree guru, David Alderman and professional arborists, Apex Tree Specialists. Their view? It needs some attention – to prevent some of its enormous limbs falling onto passersby and to put off the moment when the whole thing falls over. Many branches need reducing – not quite a complete pollarding, but a partial reduction of its crown. This will lower and centralise its centre of gravity and reduce its sail-like qualities.

Apex will hopefully be on site in late-April to carry out the work. At the same time, they will do a similar job to a large maiden ash that stands in a hedge, alongside the footpath between the bridge and the village. Both projects may cause a little disruption to path users, but this will be brief and the results will be the long term health of both trees and, most importantly, the wellbeing of everyone using the footpaths.

* a pollard is a tree that has been cut at about 2m above ground and regrown

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