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.
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.
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 ;)