Monday, 21 March 2016

Playing it safe

People often associate us with planting trees and yes, it is one of the main things that we do.

However across our sites, we do have a few older trees (which we cherish) that occasionally need a closer look at. This isn't just to admire the lichen growth or in some cases, sheer size of them, but it is with a Health and Safety hat on. We welcome visitors to all of our sites and where there are paths that we manage, neighbouring roads and houses, we need to carefully inspect the trees to ensure that as far as we can tell they are safe for people to walk and/or gather under and in sometimes in our case, to work under!

Surveying trees. In this we're hitting the tree with a hammer. It's actually quite a good way of identifying how sound the wood is!
We've been writing our new Tree Safety Management policy and this winter have started visiting all of our sites to undertake surveys. Firstly we decide on how well used an area is by visitors, staff and volunteers. This will then dictate how detailed a survey needs to be undertaken and how regularly this should be eg once a year, once every 2 years etc. If there are paths that we manage then they are more likely to need a more through, regular survey as opposed to the middle of a woodland which will require less.

Once we have surveyed an area we then need to examine what works are needed to make any trees that we have identified as potentially dangerous, safe. Sometimes this can simply be regular surveying to monitor any worsening conditions. Or it may require something more drastic such as cutting back branches, or even felling.

This large Birch at our Drygrange site had blown over and got caught in some trees on the other side of the path. We decided that the only option was to fell the tree to make it safer for walkers who were continuing to pass beneath
But these things are never straight forward. It took us nearly 3 hours to get it down as it kept getting tangled up in other trees!

This sycamore had a large hole where the branch joined the main stem which was over the path. Rather than fell the whole stem we just reduced some of the branches to take the weight out of it
And this is one we will continue to monitor. It's quite a bit away from the path but it has 2 fungal infections - the black stuff is Kretschmaria deusta and the fruiting bodies beneath are a type of Ganoderma. They might not mean immediate failure of the tree but we have made a note of them and will continue to look for signs in the tree such as crown vigour to indicate it's health
This tree at Ettrick Willows had blown over the boardwalk and was very unstable.
But it was quite straight forward to make it safe with the chainsaw. We left all the wood we felled on site. Dead wood is an incredibly important habitat which we are seeing less and less of due to the 'tidying' of woodlands and increase in removal for firewood. It's so important to leave at least as much as you take.
This is a lovely old Rowan at Ettrick Marshes. This is one we will also continue to monitor. It looked in fairly good health but it would be useful to assess it in full leaf.
If you want to know more about tree safety surveying have a look at this document http://www.forestry.gov.uk/PDF/FCMS025.pdf/$FILE/FCMS025.pdf. It gives some really good guidance using a good old helping of common sense!

Lynn
Site Officer

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