The Tuesday tree: rotten to the core
With the children both back at school this week, I am perforce getting out and about more on school runs and dog walks. Everywhere I look, I see evidence of the stormy winter we’ve been having. The ground staff and local tree surgeons are spending all day, every day sawing up trunks and branches and clearing brushwood from the fallen trees. Smoke rises from the woods in several places; the air smells of autumnal bonfires. Still there are great trees lying where they fell in the first December storm, a melancholy reminder of how the landscape has subtly changed.
Then last week’s storm, although worse in the central belt of Scotland than here, was violent enough to do more damage. The first storm uprooted or snapped big, healthy trees. Last week we lost mainly striplings and trees that were old and rotten: the very young and very old, in other words. Still, it was a shock to discover that two old ‘friends’ were amongst the victims. One was a characterful sycamore which deserves a post of its own. The other was a huge beech in my favourite wood. How it survived the first storm we cannot imagine: the lesser winds of last week brought it crashing down, and we have discovered that, within its seemingly healthy bark, it was completely rotten. I think it was just bark and will-power that was holding it up all this time.
In the center of the tree, there is no wood at all, just sandy stuff and crumbly black compost. This is what ‘rotten to the core’ actually looks like.
It makes me rather apprehensive now as I walk through this wood, with its many other aging trees. There are two other beeches just as big here, one of which lost a hefty limb in last week’s gale. I’ve been eyeing that one for a while, wondering if it would go soon. The beech that did come down, though, seemed completely solid to my untrained eye, its bark hiding the rottenness within.
Who knows which will go next? There are more gales forecast for this season. Our old trees outfaced the snow and bitter cold of the past two winters, but are no match for the wind. My favourite wood has changed for ever. Time to plant some more trees here, methinks.