A Letter from Nantwich

April 2008 (3)

One, two trees . . . 

(Two stories about

trees in Nantwich)                                                               A trio of new trees

Six willow trees in the Shrewbridge Road area that have been pollarded. They once stood by the side of the Weaver - until the river was diverted in the 1970s. 

IF the trees in the picture look as if they have suffered extreme vandalism, don't worry. They are meant to look like that. They have just received the willow trees' equivalent of a manicure and haircut. Known  in forestry as pollarding. It happens roughly every five years, involving - as you can see - trimming back all shoots to the main stem. If it seems like arboreal cruelty when the trees have put in all that effort to grow big and strong, it is good for them in that it encourages new growth! 

   Although I seem to be writing very knowledgably on this subject, I have, in fact, had all this from James Thompson, the Nantwich Riverside Project Manager. He told me: "Notices (right) were placed on site to inform people of what is happening. This is an important management process both historically and environmentally.

   "The upper Weaver and its banks are characterised by willow trees and in particular those taking the pollarded form. Historically, all the willow trees on the river in Nantwich were managed in this way.  Traditionally they would be managed in this way for the following and important reasons, some of which are still relevant today: 

  • The growing part of the tree is kept high out of the reach of livestock.

  • New growth is encouraged for firewood production and for weaving (basketry, etc.).

  • The reduction of the crown weight of these ‘crack’ willows stops them breaking up.

  • It prolongs the life of the trees."

   James added: "Sadly some willows on the riverside have been lost, or have broken up and are falling into the river. It is one of our aims to have all appropriate riverside willows under management to restore some of the ancient landscape character.  A combination of pollarded willows at various stages are an excellent habitat for a variety of species.

  I am hoping to get some interpretation boards for the area in the future which will inform/educate Riverside visitors. The trees in the picture are particularly interesting as they were once ‘riverside trees’ until the river was diverted in the ' 70s." 

    Before long the newly-trimmed trees will have put on growth - like the one seen on the left.

    But not all the trees in the area are fitting. As James said: "There are species, planted in the ' 70s, which are not appropriate for this area. These are hybrid poplars (not native black poplars, of which there are some present in the Shrewbridge road area) bred to grow very quickly - and they grow at astonishing rates.

   "These trees are widely considered inappropriate for the area of public open space as they have a habit of shedding limbs (sometimes quite large) particularly in summer months. These trees are slowly being made safe and removed in some places and we are working closely with Nantwich in Bloom, the Rotary Club of Nantwich and Riverside Concern to see that more appropriate species are planted in their place.

   "The removal of hybrid poplars in the town has recently met with some public backlash and sadly we have not had chance to respond to this as yet, but there is a huge number of people rooting for the Riverside area and doing their best to ensure it is improved for people and wildlife."

   Picture left: One of the trees tree with new shoots appearing.

l Action Upper Weaver - our part of the Weaver Valley improvement (including a download of the Nantwich Riverside Park Consultation document - July 2005).

New to churchyard

USING money provided by Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council, the town's councillors have arranged the planting of the silver birch pictured left in the churchyard at St Mary's, Nantwich.

   It is one of three provided with this money - with another silver birch and a flowering cherry on the site. The money was provided to replace a large birch tree which was blown down in January last year. As I said then, it was a sad event but it did open up the view of the west side of the church as seen from The Square.

   Not just because trees are an important source of oxygen, I always think it is good to see new ones being planted.

   There is just one thought I have about this. Although the silver birch seen here is near the edge of the churchyard, it is in what appears to be a grassed area suitable for picnics and sunbathing but is, in fact, a closed burial ground, as evidenced by many relocated gravestones in the area (right).

   Presumably the locations for the three trees were chosen carefully, to be away from known graves. It wouldn't do to have tree roots growing through notable people from the town's history!

   While there isn't a ban on people using the grassed area in sunny weather, a plaque in the churchyard asks people to respect the cemetery. But I am betting that not everyone who uses the area sees the plaque. What would they think if they knew they were sitting on top of the bones of old Dabbers?

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