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Emergency Tree Removal in Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Maidstone, Gravesand, Dartford, Bexley, Welling, Blackheath, Bromley, Beckenham, Orpington Kent & South East London

25th October 2013

 

Last November, I wrote a blog article about the importance of checking your trees for potential defects before the winter storms arrived. Conveniently less than a week later, the first major storm of the season kept us busy for two days just clearing up fallen trees from residential households and schools (here).

This year, the storm has beaten me to it and I’m sure by now most of you will have heard about the ‘St Jude day storm’ as it’s being dubbed that looks set to hit the UK on Sunday night into Monday morning.
It apparently has the potential to be the biggest storm since 1987, when 22 people lost their lives and 15 million trees were flattened by the Hurricane that devastated the South East. Perhaps ominously, some of the factors that combined with the extreme winds to cause such devastation to the tree population back then are again present this year. The mild Autumn of 1987 meant that the trees still had most of their leaves on when the storm struck, acting like a sail in the wind and massively increasing the leverage force on the trees. There had also been weeks of rain which meant the trees uprooted more easily in the soft, waterlogged ground.

I was just seven at the time and one of my earliest memories is of that night.
Sitting in the darkness at my bedroom window as the wind raged, I could just make out our neighbours willow tree which I sat and watched for perhaps an hour as it very slowly uprooted and yielded to the storm. In the days afterwards I remember being with my Dad and Grandad who were farm workers, as they helped to clear the surrounding roads and I still wonder if that experience had some bearing on my own career choice a decade later.

I personally hope this storm is nothing like as damaging as the ’87 storm, despite the obvious resulting boom in workload for us as a tree surgery company. The main reason is that this area has still not recovered from that storm, at least from a long term, woodland perspective. Although the woods have regenerated, we have a dearth of really large, mature healthy trees in our woodlands, fields and roadsides. Whenever I travel to the Cotswolds, the welsh borders, the lake district or Scotland, pretty much anywhere not badly hit by that storm, I am always struck by how common these huge veteran trees are, and how healthy many are.
The ones here that survived the great storm were usually severely damaged leaving them open to colonisation by wood decay fungi that have probably seen off thousands more in the years since.

The other reason I hope this storm is not as bad is that we as a company wouldn’t really benefit from it as much as you might think. After all we only have so much capacity in terms of men and machinery and we are busy everyday anyway. We would make a little extra money for the extra hours put in but the pipeline of future tree work will have been reduced forever. In fact what results from major weather events like this, when demand temporarily outstrips supply is just a bonanza that draws every chancer with a chainsaw out of the woodwork.

As a homeowner or manager who may have to deal with fallen trees over the next week, it is well worth remembering that health and safety legislation has changed beyond all recognition since 1987.
If you employ someone to clear trees for you and there is an accident, if they turn out not to be properly qualified, insured or using the right equipment, you could very easily be held liable as their ‘employer’.
Fallen trees are VERY dangerous to work on, particularly if lodged in other trees or perched on top of buildings, and It takes a great deal of experience and skill to remove them safely without causing further damage. So the message is simply this, if it turns out badly on Monday morning and you have some fallen trees to deal with, think about waiting just a little longer if need be for a professional to arrive and do the job properly rather than take a chance with ‘the man in a van’ or worse still, risking your own life.

If we are not local to you, the Arboricultural Association list of Approved Contractors is a good place to find reputable Tree surgeons and can be found (here).

Jamie Saunders

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