Tortured Trees – Planted and forgotten…

Tortured Trees – Planted and Forgotten…

It is a beautiful, strong and solid beech tree, and is situated on a gradual slope that forms part of an historic, designed landscape that has seen varying degrees of management, by generations of land owners and estate workers.

This tree has a stout trunk of around four metres tall and sports a relatively well formed crown of branches, all things considered. Lower limbs have succumbed to shade, have been discarded and lie crumbling on the woodland floor. Upper limbs however stretch vertically, reaching for the light whilst elbowing many lesser specimens – none of which have the presence or weight of the beech.

With algae dusted bark, lichen and rust covered ironwork, the tree so blends with its surroundings that you’d be forgiven for not seeing it at all. It mingles quietly yet purposely amongst its neighbours, none of which approach the size of this beech.

I’m encouraged to believe this tree was initially planted in an open field, where it could have grown a wider spreading, animal grazed canopy which would have followed the contours of the land – as many of the stately parkland trees would have done at that time. Alas, this wasn’t meant to be.

Possibly the fate of the tree was sealed when a fence was added around the perimeter of the area a few decades ago, effectively consigning the beech to a parcel of land that was subsequently planted as a wood – this would at least explain the many, many younger trees of lesser stature and quality that surround the beech.

Thinking back to its planting day, I imagine a labourer walking away from a job well done. They like us now would have wanted only the best for this tree, especially after expending so much energy digging in this stone filled heavy clay landscape. They’d have wished for the tree to enjoy mild seasons until its roots were firmly established and would likely have carried cans of water, scooped from the lake, up the hill to water in the back filled soil.

The planter of this tree, 100 years or so ago would have fixed the iron tree frame around the tree to guard against attack from deer. Maybe, after all this work the planter went off to fight in the Great War, or maybe the estate team were re-assigned. Whichever it was; little attention was paid to the tree beyond the assembly of that guard.

Maybe we’ll never know, but something changed, something that is now having real and torturous effects on the tree.

Today, this tree today sits quietly in its shackles, struggling to breath, to grow, or to thrive. It is consumed in a woodland where it can’t spread its branches and will never, as a result of its protective guard reach its full potential. If only the planter could see it now, they’d most likely glaze over with emotion for the trees ability to survive against the odds.

I’d say that this tree typifies the situation where successions of land managers make new plans, dance to new tunes, and respond to new pressures. They each bring spirit and make things happen but occasionally, whilst pushing forward, they forget to look back. This beech therefore is a casualty of change, and short of a miracle is beyond help; more’s the pity…

Gary Webb

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