[The magnificent Duke of Wellington Cedar, more than 20m in height and with a trunk diameter of 2.3m (14/09/13)]
If, like me, you care about trees and their part in Britain's heritage you will no doubt be worried about the decision bt the National Trust to cut down a magnificent cedar tree planted by the Duke of Wellington in the garden at Kingston Lacy.
I've been in contact with tree consultant Jeremy Barrell, who has written this update for Landscape Juice.
Update on the felling of The Duke of Wellington Cedar to supplement the existing press briefings (Landscape Juice - 22/01/14)
Just before Christmas, The National Trust cut down one of Britain’s most important heritage trees, an 187 year old cedar of Lebanon planted by the Duke of Wellington in 1827 at Kingston Lacy House, Dorset.
This seems to have been against the published advice of its independent advisor, but The National Trust has so far refused to release further information to refute that point. However, in support of its position, The Trust has extensively briefed the press and published a video with information that I regard as technically incorrect and potentially misleading, to the extent that I am seeking support from the wider Profession.
Watch this video for an overview, set against a backdrop of one of the trees being felled:
Read more detail of the background - Briefing note on the felling of The Duke of Wellington Cedar by The National Trust at Kingston Lacy House in December 2013
Stepping back from the detail, and setting aside the seriousness of the loss of this tree, this affair is of international interest for a number of reasons. It is the first time that modern media has been so successfully mobilised to expose poor decision-making and to shame an organisation that actively promotes its ethical credentials. In the context of the small size of the arboricultural community, more than 4,000 hits for the video in less than a week is a staggering response that would be hard for any member-based organisation to ignore.
Furthermore, that response was international, with enthusiasts and professionals alike, joining together to support a common cause. Of course, it is a British issue and so, as expected, the British polled the most with 69% of the views, the US second with 10%, Canada third with 5%, New Zealand fourth with 4%, Australia fifth with 3% and Sweden sixth with 2%, so very strong international support. It is a great demonstration of how small ordinary people like you and me can make a big difference if they are given a framework within which to voice their disapproval. The protest was almost universal and the numbers, along with its breadth, give it significant weight.
Turning back to the tree, it is lost and that cannot be changed, and so the challenge for us now in the UK is to work out how to use this strong mandate to reduce the chances of other special trees suffering the same fate. As the video has now had more than 4,500 hits, I felt that this was enough support to write to the Director General of the National Trust, Dame Helen Ghosh, and the Chairman, Simon Jenkins, to pose some questions about the way this matter has been managed. Here is what I asked on behalf of all landscape professionals, the general public and the National Trust Members:
- Were you aware of the local decision by the South West Region to fell a tree of national importance against the advice of The Trust’s own internal specialist advisors and the external consultant’s analysis?
- What are you doing to reassure the public and Members that this seemingly renegade action by the South West Region is an isolated incident and not endemic within the wider Trust administration framework?
- What changes do you intend to make to The Trust’s decision-making framework to reassure the public and Members that any remaining heritage trees it has under its care will be properly identified and responsibly managed in the future?
To date, there has been no response, but I do intend to continue asking until there are some appropriate answers. In the meantime, please promote the video where you can to ensure that we have the strongest possible platform to lobby for change.
In closing, I wish to thank everyone who supported this protest, which has provided the mandate to ask questions of obvious international importance.
Image: Stump cross-section showing an advanced column of central decay (darker colors) that has been compartmentalized, with limited breaches into the outer wood. Most importantly, there is a substantial outer width of lighter colored sound heartwood and white sapwood beyond (mostly trimmed off in the felling process), which provides solid support for the tree. This confirms that the original Picus® results released by The National Trust were misleading and, in the context of no significant discovered root decay, there was no defensible justification for felling this tree on the grounds of instability.
Jeremy Barrell (22nd January 2014)
Weeding the Web: The National Trust makes me very, very angry
Landscape Juice Network: Felling the Kingston Lacy Duke of Wellington Cedar by National Trust
Images courtesy of Jeremy Barrell