Some of you may have noticed small, numbered red tags on certain trees in the woods. I am asked quite often “does this mean it will be cut down?” – the answer is almost certainly not.
The tags form an important part of our tree safety programme. As a landowner who encourages public access, we have a duty of care to ensure that predictable problems with trees do not pose a risk to our visitors. We do this through an annual tree inspection process, whereby the estate is divided in to risk zones and trees on path edges and boundaries are surveyed by the rangers. When we find a tree with a defect we will give it a tag, record the number and location and decide what remedial work is necessary. The sorts of defects we look out for are lifting root plates, splitting or cracked stems, significant dead wood or broken/hanging branches. Of course we also look out for trees that are completely dead, but these tend to be in the minority as we locate and deal with these during our regular work throughout the year. So, a red tag means that the tree will be worked on in some way, but usually not felled. For that reason we employ a local tree surgery company to climb the trees concerned and remove the offending problem. Our contractor has been working in the woods over the last week, with most of the trees having broken branches removed or deadwood taken out.
We take a very pragmatic approach to our tree safety work and do our utmost to keep trees standing and to interfere as little as possible. For example, deadwood in a tree isn’t always a problem. Some trees can have very stable deadwood that will remain in place for years – if this is the case it is left alone and provides great habitat for a variety of wildlife. In other cases we will just shorten dead or dying branches to reduce the loading on them.
There are some tree problems and failures that we cannot reasonably predict though. Healthy trees often lose limbs or fall over for no apparent reason, but through our surveys we attempt to predict this before it happens and intervene.
On a separate issue, you may have noticed some work happening on the bridlepath close to Orpington Road. Some visitors had mentioned a smell of gas on the bridlepath; we reported this and surveyors confirmed a gas leak. Contractors are in the process of fixing two leaks in the gas main that runs under the bridlepath. The leak doesn’t pose any safety risk and the path will remian open throughout the work, which should finish by the end of next week. The disturbed area next to the path will be left to vegetate over naturally, but we may resurface the stretch of path with stone if necessary once the work is complete.