If you have visited us here, you will probably have noticed a fine oak tree in the drive, just before it forks. There used to be three of them, but one died quite a long time ago and we left the branchless stump, reckoning it would be good for wildlife. About ten and a half years ago – exactly, now I think of it, because it happened on Zerlina’s first birthday – it quietly fell over into the drive, in between the Sage driving into Yagnub for the Sunday papers and driving back ten minutes later. The second one has lost all its big branches and is now a healthy but pollarded old tree, not much to look at but we’re glad it’s still there. The third is still beautiful.
About eight or ten years ago – I could look it up here and find out exactly when – one of the big boughs fell into the field. It was very sad and quite a shock. But the rest of the tree has been all right ever since. However, I’ve been aware for some time that a lot of the weight is on one side, with a big bough coming out almost horizontally over the drive, then splitting – I’ve felt that the jagged piece where the branch broke should be looked at, and the heaviest sideways branches cut back sympathetically. I was anxious not to spoil the shape of the tree any more than can be helped, though. I don’t know any tree surgeons and it’s hard to know how to choose one. But I was talking to a friend recently and she happened to mention that a neighbour of hers, recently bereaved, had had a lot of remedial work done to trees in his garden. His late partner couldn’t bear to think of trees being cut down while he himself was slowly dying, so the work was put off until there was, sadly, no longer that obstacle. My friend praised the tree surgeon, saying how much he loved and knew trees and so I asked for his details.
So he called round on Friday and I’ve booked him to come and do the work. I do appreciate watching someone looking at a job and summing it up – do you know what I mean? I could see his eyes travel along, observing the stresses on the branches and what to do about them. He explained what he’d recommend, which was much what i had thought; not that I’d know how it should be done. He won’t do more than he has to, as cutting too much off an old tree in one go is quite a shock, and he says the jagged part, though it does have signs of “chicken of the woods” and there’s a hollow area, is quite stable and there will be a lot of birds and insects taking advantage of it and it’s best left. It won’t be possible to do the work by climbing, or off a ladder – which I can see is the case – so he’s hiring a cherrypicker. The price he’s quoting is less than I’d expected (actually, I’d have thought it would have been at least that much plus the cherrypicker) so, knowing he’s qualified, insured and capable, I’m happy to go ahead and relieved the tree will be looked after.
I asked how old he thought it was, expecting him to say about 250 years. He reckons 450-500 years, which would make it about the same age as the house. It makes it all the more precious to me.