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

    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?

     

    Yes, of course they evolved before, what I'm saying is that pace of change of our habits can outpace evolution. The butterflies struggle to evolve as quickly as man can change from needing coppice wood to neglecting it. If a species has lived in a wood that has been coppiced for 500 years it continually migrates to the youngest part of the wood, it evolves to rely on it, if man stops cutting it the species has nowhere to go and dies.

     

    Woodland clearing are vital

    Butterflies, like the High Brown Fritillary, live in woodland clearings where trees have recently been cut down or coppiced, to then grow up again in a sustainable and natural cycle. Such rich and diverse habitat includes areas of growing trees, deadwood, grass, bracken and open scrub giving great value to wildlife. However, woodland practices such as coppicing and thinning have declined, and many woodland areas have become increasingly shady and overgrown.

     

    To improve the habitat for these threatened butterflies and encourage recolonisation in the Morecambe Bay Limestones, the National Trust will be using the WIG funding to create glades and help develop the local coppice industry.

     

    The National Trust's Alan Ferguson, says: "This grant is an exciting boost to The National Trust's Morecambe Bay Properties twin aims to sustainably manage land for access and wildlife. By returning previously worked coppice blocks back to production there is a gain for the landscape, wildlife and future employment in a declined industry. The cyclical production and sale of local produce to a local market has to make sense."

     

    http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/cumbria-butterflies090.html#cr

    Edited by Catweazle
    Added quote and link

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    hamadryad, if I understand you correctly, you're saying we've become very conservative in our pruning practices because we are too worried about death and decay.

     

    But isn't this because we now prune for different purposes? Rather than pruning for useful end products (and allowing for wastage) we now mostly prune for amenity and safety.

     

    I wish we could prune for useful end products myself - I think it would make arboriculture much more interesting - but it isn't economically viable, and also too many of the trees we work on are in very built-up areas so the safety aspect can't be ignored.

     

    This isn't to say you aren't right about old-style pollarding being much more 'brutal' than we give it credit for - though I'd be interested in some more concrete evidence - but this would still only be suitable in certain (mostly rural) situations, don't you think?

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    the surrounding trees could do with a selective thin

    get rid of the bracken

    the oak looks like it,s in a nice woodland setting so should be left to do what it wants and what nature dictates

     

    but not sure why that photo is in a thread titled pollards

    as i hope your not going to reveal you or someone else pollarded it:confused1:

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    hamadryad, if I understand you correctly, you're saying we've become very conservative in our pruning practices because we are too worried about death and decay.

     

    But isn't this because we now prune for different purposes? Rather than pruning for useful end products (and allowing for wastage) we now mostly prune for amenity and safety.

     

    I wish we could prune for useful end products myself - I think it would make arboriculture much more interesting - but it isn't economically viable, and also too many of the trees we work on are in very built-up areas so the safety aspect can't be ignored.

     

    This isn't to say you aren't right about old-style pollarding being much more 'brutal' than we give it credit for - though I'd be interested in some more concrete evidence - but this would still only be suitable in certain (mostly rural) situations, don't you think?

     

    it is clear my message is not YET fully understood, but it will be and i hope youll all continue to comment and bear with me. I am trying to clarify each point raised but all the while also trying to show some observations that i think may prove helpfull in the understanding of the pollard.

     

    To keep things interesting i am going to insert another image for comment, i hope at least some will think about the evolution of the tree fungi relationship.

     

    Why have self destruct genetics in trees not been lost in evolution?

     

    doesnt the theory of evolution not eliminate such ridiculous defects, UNLESS they are adventigous!

     

    5976551e06b14_grifoladryadeus620.jpg.ae4575168e2c45b2bcad4a19e7eef80d.jpg

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    i reckon that old oak had been pollarded many moons ago, now i see it has shed or lost a third of its crown, it has been off for a while going by the brambles growing over the fallen stem and i now see a young shoot or even young sappling growing out the the trunk where the limb came off. Thats what i see.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I'm not sure it's true to say trees have self-destruct genetics is it? It's more true of animals than trees. Trees that die of 'old age' die because the fundamental growth pattern of a tree (adding a new cone of wood every year) cannot continue forever.

     

    As for the tree-fungi relationship, it is well understood that certain fungi are beneficial to the tree, and Alan Rayner has argued that we shouldn't see even 'parasitic' fungi as invading pathogens. Are you saying something besides this?

     

    I'd like to understand what you're saying, because it sounds interesting, but couldn't you just, y'know, say it?

    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.

     

    [ATTACH]26150[/ATTACH]

     

    That oaks at burnham???pretty sure thats the one i sat on with my nephew and we got covered in wood ants in the summer!

    I think pollards have a very valid part to play in future tree managment i think the way shigo has developed crown reconstruction and turned the whole arboricultral world against pollarding(well maybe not in the uk!} is not particually constructive... personally i think there is nothing better looking than a gnarled up ancient pollard!

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    i reckon that old oak had been pollarded many moons ago, now i see it has shed or lost a third of its crown, it has been off for a while going by the brambles growing over the fallen stem and i now see a young shoot or even young sappling growing out the the trunk where the limb came off. Thats what i see.

     

    Forget about the birch seedling growing out of the decay pocket (another form of evidance for duration, time of failure) do you mean the sprout of new growth ON the trunk, where once there would have been no room nor more importantly light to allow this.

     

    What some see as "destruction" i see Re-trenchment assitance by an "invading, other view" colonisation of a fungi.

     

    A tree has the capacity for eternal life, but ONLY when certain fungi "assist"

     

    most people would fear re pollard operations on a tree of this age and stature, but observation in the real world tells us that even a tree of this age and physiological dysfuntion can and will retrench regenerate and promote growth where once it was unable.

     

    i am not suggesting we go and take the other main limbs off! before anyone gets in a big state! what i am trying to lead to is an appreciation of what role fungi play in the "imortality" of the tree.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    MattyF, did Shigo turn people against pollarding though? I thought he simply said that pollarding is properly done on a regular cycle and cut back to the same point, and therefore that chopping the ends/tops off branches whenever we feel like it does not constitute pollarding and should be avoided.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    MattyF, did Shigo turn people against pollarding though? I thought he simply said that pollarding is properly done on a regular cycle and cut back to the same point, and therefore that chopping the ends/tops off branches whenever we feel like it does not constitute pollarding and should be avoided.

     

    go on arborsite and discuss pollarding with the yanks !

    ancient managment of those pollards discussed would of been done with an axe and probably all over the place imo

    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.