Jump to content
  • Article: Pollards, the forgotten art-discussion

    Po!la*d-a four letter word?

     

    One could be forgiven for thinking it is! I am almost afraid to mention the word in today’s arboricultural scene, but am I the only one who thinks it a little ironic that we now revere the very trees that where pruned in such a way we might now lynch those doing it? Is pollarding really to be considered the ultimate sin? Or is there just a lack of insight into the merits and de merits of each case, and a fear of retribution for going out on a limb and making the choice. At this time it’s a brave man that suggests “sensitive pruning” isn’t always the right approach. As a climber of 20 odd years I have done my fair share of old and veteran trees, and had to pollard (oops, blasphemy!) some for spurious reasons, not having been the one responsible for the job specification. If there is one thing I have gained through my successes and failures it is insight, a “feel” for the tree and its life from seed to senescence, its grace and ultimate glory as a grandfather of time.

    Thanks to the likes of Neville Fay and Ted green MBE the arb world is more enlightened on the whole subject of ancient trees and veteranisation, and the world seems to be awakening to a new understanding. We have come almost full circle, we grew a distain for harsh techniques and Hepting/ Shigo and others exposed the issues with poor pruning and treatments. A refined approach was born and some of us went on to become masters of the art in fine tip reductions in respect of this new knowledge. We stopped over lifting tree canopies and crucified the “over thinners” we mobbed the “purveyor’s of pollard”. While all this was going on a few of us “labourers” where reading up and taking notes, watching the debates and doing what we where told was the “best practice”.

     

    “I’m not suggesting we abandon this approach, preservation of amenity is a different game altogether”

     

     

    Now it is our turn to give some input to the debate, and I am certain there will be many “old school” climbers ready to join in. The one thing that is blindingly obvious to me is that very little respect is paid to the “experience factor” it is all well and good educating yourself and gaining a degree in arboriculture, but you can never learn from books what you learn by feel; and trees, though they may be the substance (paper) of text books, rarely are trees text book in nature. I mean no disrespect to the “consultants” but you really should pay more heed to the views and experience of climbers. The older climbers have a body of experience gained from a time when we just got on with it, rounding over, pollarding etc. We might never consider doing it these days but we know HOW to do it and how to do it well, skills that are being lost on a generation of climbers who only know the way it is today.

    What this will mean in a decade or two is that people with the very skills the veteran brigade seek to re learn will be lost, how hard can you prune? Where can we make that cut for the best compromise of vascular support and minimal dysfunction? Have we not learnt just how resilient trees can be? Decay and dysfunction are part and parcel of a trees old age, be that from natural progressive infections or via pruning wounds, they are the same end result so why fear them? I am sick to my teeth of being told I can not do this and I can not do that, when I have all my life proven time and time again that it CAN be done, but it has to be with “insight” I fear if we don’t settle the debate soon a whole gap will appear in the generations of veterans as the old ones die while we are all trying to “rediscover” the old ways. The Japanese have been “veteranising” for a thousand years, albeit on a different scale, the principles are the same. The art of producing a miniature ancient tree of visual stature and form is the same art required to recreate the ancient pollards and veterans of the medieval era. You just have to think BIG.

    I have seen some ridiculous attempts at re creating the pollard, and some pretty dire attempts at recession pruning, so bad in fact I doubt Mr X in his white transit with traces of tarmac could do a worse job! I can no longer remain silent walking the old deer parks and seeing trees unmulched unfenced and unloved, they are as much a part of our green and pleasant lands history as any building or monument yet they are left to fend for themselves much of the time despite all the current knowledge available. We need to re-evaluate the pollard fast and to think of pollarding as an option for those old trees considered for felling due to various defects, infections or even subsidence issues. I do not mean the way its done on LA budgets either for those thinking along those lines!

    Some people in the field are of the opinion that pollarding was carried out when the tree was young and while this may be true in today’s scene, it was certainly not the case in the medieval period or Tudor period. I am well aware that there exist few records of the pollarding of old. However the tree is a record of its life, it tells us like a book of a thousand pages what events took place in its life, and when. One only has to look at those old pollards of Burnham to see that pollarding was a brutal practice; the evidence is in the hollow centres. We only have to look at compartmentalisation to see how large the tree was when it was Pollarded. The now hollow stems are the new wood that formed over the dysfunctional core. While the living cambium continued to grow over the now dead part, the demons of D, death, decay and dysfunction (Shigo), moved in and had a tasty supper of lignin and/or cellulose.

    I think there was two ways possibly three of pollarding, and certain that Arborist’s of the time much like the good ones today had a “feel” for their art. I am certain that a tree that had previously been un-pollarded would have had the two major lower limbs left on and been decapitated above this point. This guaranteed that the tree would continue to grow and survive the loss of its head, like the “monarchs without head” a form that is made perfectly naturally. We have to realise that in those times text books where the preserve of the wealthy, these where craftsman whose skills where passed on to a new generation of apprentices. They also had the luxury of more trees to make mistakes with, if one or two died it was no big deal, it made good firewood! Today if we gambled with one of say three oaks on a site we would be justifiably lynched if they was to die from such a brutal practice.

    Now going back to the monarch without head, I am certain that once good re growth was established and of much more slender proportions the now only substantial wood left was also highly desirable and those limbs originally left in place where now cut back to some re growth on their length. I am certain it was this process that created those extraordinarily wide shoulders or “pollard heads” we now see especially in the Burnham beech trees. This is also evident in the way the decay columns extend into the larger thicker sections of these old pollard heads.

    This brings me to the whole demons of D thing again, and I think we need to understand these processes far better if we are to re create our heritage trees for future generations to revere. Its an area of heated debate, and an area that is still to this day largely misunderstood and understudied. I hope to convince the sceptical of the role fungi play in the longevity of trees; this is a co evolutionary process that has gone on for millennia. I have a disdain for the word attack when it comes to fungi, and prefer to think of it as taking advantage of a situation. As with all natural organisms and systems they have a role and a purpose, they are essential and should not be viewed as an “enemy”

     

    I think there may have been a time in history, and not so long ago, when mans activities actualy enhanced Bio diversity, rather than eliminated it. We are losing our way, its time to re think our strategies.

    • Like 6


      Report Article

    User Feedback



    Recommended Comments

    This is interesting but i am little lost..

     

    What are you actually trying to say?

     

    As huck says Pollarding was a practice undertaken for various reasons to retain the source of firewood and food.

     

    That practice is seldom undertaken for those reasons now,now its a heritage reason- veteranising isnt pollarding. Making trees look like how they used to look is a very different function than managing a resource that you need to survive..

     

    But i am still not sure what you are getting at..

     

    What i am getting at is that ancient man was an acute observer of nature

     

    he had such insight that he could use "intuition" of natural proscess to his advantage.

     

    that pollarding although sometimes resulted in the death of a tree it was understood that it wasnt the end of the world, it was natures way anyway.

     

    that he observed a great many details of tree form and function that we are trying to reproduce and understand froma "scientific approach"

     

    that sometimes, faith in insight is undervalued.

     

    and that decay is not to be feared, but revered

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    :lol:

     

    cool profesion, i think in time a great many disciplines will come together and make great strides due to "cross examination" of intertwined subjects.

     

    its amazing what happens when somone from an entirley differnt field comes into a discussion and adds "personal insight" to the debate.

     

    look at claus, he was an engineer, radical dude

     

    Yes I am perpetually fascinated by the links between several of my areas of interest that initially seem totally unrelated.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Yes I am perpetually fascinated by the links between several of my areas of interest that initially seem totally unrelated.

     

    i have a lot of respect for Mr fay, he is really pushing this concept to its limit, he well earnt his award for contribution to arboriculture IMO

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    I will be back later as have to go out but lots of questions to ask. How old are trees usually (as a minimum) before they can be pollarded? How does pollarding relate to coppicing in terms of suitable tree species and also habitat offered for fungi/beetles etc? As well as eventual timber output? Sorry for the 'noob' questions- do feel free to direct me to reading on the subject if you'd like a discussion with someone who has more of a clue what they are on about!

     

    Kat1e, NO ONE is out of place in any discussion, and your contribution is valued and appreciated, you ask away, i am here for the duration.

     

    What use is knowledge if not to share pass on and develope?

     

    We are all members of the same classroom, and i am not so arrogant to think i have all the answers i am just not afraid to be wrong or be embareesed, for each time that i am wrong i recieve an education.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Interesting reading.I'm also not to sure what your piont is. I struggle with writing not thinking so it can be diffeicult to get my thoughts accross on paper at times. I think that the ecological benifits of old pollards are a result of an old practice rather than the reason for doing it in the 1st place. Veteran trees are a declining resource now, but in years gone by old and standing dead wood habitats would have been more common and not always a result of mans pruning styles.

     

    I've met tribes people in tropical Africa and the Americas and have seen 1st hand evidence of the collection of materials from trees. In both regions the trend was to collect a usuable amount of material (bark is what springs to mind) without killing the whole tree, so that the resource can be re-used. I suspect that this is how pollards were developed, use what you need without killing the tree.

     

    Idea and pruning methods will always change and evolve. I don't think that pruning styles from 20 years ago or more were all bad, but we are hopefully moving forward. As our stocks of old trees decline, it becomes more important that we understand how we can best retain them and secure the next generation of veterans. I do doubt that our ancestors pre-empted the results of their pruning in terms of habitat value and thats why it was done.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    There are two ways of looking at this image, discuss what you see here, please i would like to understand what YOU all see.

     

    A tree that's about to fall over ? A tree that could be cut at 4m to provide a bat home ?

     

    I'm guessing, I'm just an amateur.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Interesting reading.I'm also not to sure what your piont is. I struggle with writing not thinking so it can be diffeicult to get my thoughts accross on paper at times. I think that the ecological benifits of old pollards are a result of an old practice rather than the reason for doing it in the 1st place. Veteran trees are a declining resource now, but in years gone by old and standing dead wood habitats would have been more common and not always a result of mans pruning styles.

     

    I've met tribes people in tropical Africa and the Americas and have seen 1st hand evidence of the collection of materials from trees. In both regions the trend was to collect a usuable amount of material (bark is what springs to mind) without killing the whole tree, so that the resource can be re-used. I suspect that this is how pollards were developed, use what you need without killing the tree.

     

    Idea and pruning methods will always change and evolve. I don't think that pruning styles from 20 years ago or more were all bad, but we are hopefully moving forward. As our stocks of old trees decline, it becomes more important that we understand how we can best retain them and secure the next generation of veterans. I do doubt that our ancestors pre-empted the results of their pruning in terms of habitat value and thats why it was done.

     

    I am not suggesting they "preempted" the habitat perspective, merely that they knew imitiating it had many benifits and eliminating it aslo. hence seperation of valuable butts. if they did not understand fully the proscesses involved they would not have been able to alter the growing environment for their purposes.

     

    and that in copying the proscesses they "enhanced" bio diverse habitat by "forcing it" and multiplying that habitual set of prosceses the trees go through naturaly in nature. those habitats would have evolved slowly developing in the orest, but mans actions enhanced their avaliabiltiy and in turn promoted diverse life.

    Edited by Tony Croft aka hamadryad

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    and that in copying the proscesses they "enhanced" bio diverse habitat by "forcing it" and multiplying that habitual set of prosceses the trees go through naturaly in nature. those habitats would have evolved slowly developing in the orest, but mans actions enhanced their avaliabiltiy and in turn promoted diverse life.

     

    I know that man had created unnatural habitat that has been in place so long that species have developed to exploit it. Coppicing is a good example, butterflies have evolved over a thousand years to live in newly cut coppice, our technological age has left the coppice to stand in the last 50 years and the butterfilies cannot evolve quickly enough to survive elsewhere.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    I know that man had created unnatural habitat that has been in place so long that species have developed to exploit it. Coppicing is a good example, butterflies have evolved over a thousand years to live in newly cut coppice, our technological age has left the coppice to stand in the last 50 years and the butterfilies cannot evolve quickly enough to survive elsewhere.

     

    really?

     

    so you dont think that butterflies evolved before mans intervention, and lived off the grasslands and meadows created by ancient and very destructive herbivores, animals that would have created (like elephants in the savana) large areas of progessive habitat? and then we came along and repeated what was already a set of circumstances that benifitted plants and animals already well evolved to take advantage of the situation?

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites



    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an account

    Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

    Register a new account

    Sign in

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now

About

Arbtalk.co.uk is a hub for the arboriculture industry in the UK.  
If you're just starting out and you need business, equipment, tech or training support you're in the right place.  If you've done it, made it, got a van load of oily t-shirts and have decided to give something back by sharing your knowledge or wisdom,  then you're welcome too.
If you would like to contribute to making this industry more effective and safe then welcome.
Just like a living tree, it'll always be a work in progress.
Please have a look around, sign up, share and contribute the best you have.

See you inside.

The Arbtalk Team

Follow us

×

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.