Yesterday we had the whine of chainsaws all day as the Parks Dept took down a horse chestnut across in the Park. Bogart was disappointed that I didn’t chain myself to it, or at least run across to heckle the lads, but unfortunately there was a genuine reason for it to come down.
For the past few years there has been a disease spreading throughout these trees in the UK which is caused by a bacterium. It causes bleeding cankers – lesions which run with liquid, especially in warmer weather. When these dry up they form black tumour like nodules on the bark. An effected tree can survive for some years but if the trunk is completely ringed by the canker the tree will inevitably die. Similary a ringed limb will die and start to dry out, and is liable to crack and fall. There is really no alternative to felling a severely diseased tree, both to stop the spread of the disease and to prevent a danger to the public.
The horse chestnut was introduced to the UK and is actually a native of the Balkans. It was brought here in the 1550s and is well used as an amenity tree. It is mostly found in Parks, country estates, and roadside planting schemes, and only very rarely in woodland. We have two in the cemetery which are also suffering from the disease and one is so bad that it is on the felling list. It is heartbreaking because these are very old, well established trees and like the one in the park, have been able to grow in open space, which meant they have a good architectural shape.
I am hoping that there will be something else planted in it’s place, but knowing the council I won’t hold my breath.