Gardens & Meadows Blog

Search all blog posts

New Walk

Written by John James, posted on Friday, February 21, 2020

Five years after the first phase of felling and replanting in New Walk, we have just completed the second phase of the work.

The reason behind the work is that New Walk, rather than being a proper single species tree avenue, has, over the years, become a mixed genera and species feature. The walk was originally planted in the 1860’s to encourage walkers from the newly built Meadow Building down to the river, but none of the original trees survive and we don’t know exactly what was originally planted. Today the walk consists of large Hybrid Black Poplars planted in the 1920’s, Balsam Poplars planted in the 1970’s and several different species of lime planted at varying dates. Although quickly growing and tolerant of the sometimes very wet conditions, poplars are not a good long-term choice for an avenue as they are relatively short lived and very brittle trees.

Video of felling the main stemAs the remaining Hybrid Black poplars are around 100 years old, they have become subject to decay and have started to drop large branches with no warning, and it is because of this safety issue that they need to be removed.

Having after a great deal of discussion and consultation, already established the programme for the gradual removal of the poplars before phase one was undertaken five years ago, this meant that we could carry on with phase two with only the need to consult the Forestry Commission (who legally need to grant a felling licence for any project that entails felling more than ten cubic metres of timber per calendar quarter). Since the trees are within the City Centre Conservation Area and within the Grade 1 Historic Park and Garden, the Forestry Commission in turn seek advice from the city tree officer.

The felling licence was sought and granted last summer enabling us to programme the work over the dormant winter months when there is no chance of disturbing nesting birds.

Prior to felling the trees, they were checked that they were not serving as bat roosts by a licensed bat consultant. Luckily, despite many suitable holes and broken branch wounds that would have made excellent bat roosts, none were found.

Video of log splittingAfter the bat consultant gave the all clear, the trees were felled, but this had to be carried out in sections in order to protect the other trees in, and adjacent to, the avenue.

All the brush wood and smaller branches were chipped up and taken away for biomass. The larger branches and main stems, were split up into manageable pieces by a cone splitter mounted on an excavator and have been taken away to heat the premises of a local business (sadly the timber being so brittle is of no value for anything other than burning).

Video of stump grindingThe remaining stumps were ground out using a large stump grinder, which took two days to complete. These stumps had to be ground out more deeply and thoroughly than would normally be the case, as the replacement trees need to be planted in almost exactly the same spots as the poplars.

Although it is sad to lose such large trees, they had become unsafe, and actually did not make a very positive impact on the landscape being quite ungainly in character and supporting very little in the way of wildlife.

Once all the felling work and stump grinding was completed we planted the three new trees – Tilia x europaea ‘Pallida’ (Common Lime), the same variety as planted in phase one. Once again, the new trees were supplied by Deepdale Trees in Bedfordshire, as UK grown 25/30 cm circumference and 4.5 to 5m high specimens. It is interesting to compare these new trees with those planted five years ago and see how much they have grown.

Click each of the three small images within the text to view short videos of the process.