Pollarding ash

Borrowdale ash pollard

Borrowdale ash pollard with hawthorn and rose hitching a ride on top

I’m really happy that someone asked us to come and pollard a couple of ash trees recently – it’s not a common practice around here but is a really interesting way of managing trees. You basically coppice the tree at head height so that regrowth is protected from browsing animals. In some places, such as Borrowdale, pollarding scattered field trees was an extra source of fodder for the stock and the branchwood became fuel. Continuing over hundreds of years, the practice has created thousands of beautiful trees which are also an incredible habitat – as they age they hold a lot of dead wood, which becomes home to many fungi, insects and even other trees.

Ash trees before pollarding

Ash trees before pollarding

These ash trees will have to be pollarded for many many years before they approach that stage though. But hey, you’ve got to start somewhere. These guys are a good age to pollard – around 30 – they still have the spunky vigours of youth but are mature enough to withstand a bit of hardship (yes, I know whose 30th birthday it is next week, and yes I know I’m biased). The top cut needs to be as clean as possible and slightly off-level so that rainwater disperses quickly. This reduces the amount of rot and disease around what is actually a gaping wound. Because the heartwood of the trunk is frequently exposed in this way it is subject to rot, and in old trees there is no heartwood left at all, just a hollow cylinder of living tissue.

Ash trees after pollarding

Ash trees after pollarding

Again, an amazing habitat.

Hopefully I’ll get to come back year after year and photograph these guys – keep track of how they’re doing and put the pictures up on this blog.

Big thanks to Steve and Kate of Lower Mount, especially for the eggs ;)





View from the other side

View from the other side

An extra reward - super huge goose eggs!

An extra reward – super huge goose eggs!


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4 Responses to Pollarding ash

  1. Barbara Matthewson says:

    Thank you for this – I was looking on Google after a recent trip to Borrowdale, where I’d noticed the numerous pollarded ash, and wondered why I hadn’t noticed them before. I’ve been fond of the pollards in upper Langstrath for many years, and at last have noticed these other ones. It’s good to know the trees are being looked after

  2. blackbarkers says:

    Isn’t it a wonderful place? I think the Borrowdale pollards are being looked after by the National Trust – they thankfully resumed a cutting regime after years of neglect.

  3. Astaldo says:

    How often would you recomend to pollard these trees in the future? I have lot of ash trees here and I woud like to use the new growth as tree fodder in a sustainable manner. I imagine 3 years shoud be ok? Thanks

  4. blackbarkers says:

    Hi Astaldo,
    3 years would be fine. If you are only wanting the fodder then 2 years would also be fine. If you want to use the wood from the branches eg. as firewood then I would recommend a longer period of around 10 years. Good luck!

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