In October 2014, I was asked to quote for a large chestnut removal for a lovely couple in Enford, a small village south of Upavon in Wiltshire. On my arrival I discovered not only was it extremely large with a lot of timber but it was also 60% dead and held together with very old fashioned steel cable braces near the top holding the two stems together. Couple that with limited slopped access and god knows what other "nasties" in the tree; this was going to be a big job!
I worked out a plan and submitted the quote, which was accepted a week or so later. I rang the guys and booked it in for early December.
The week of the job came around quickly and off we went. We set the chipper up in the field next to the garden with a farm trailer from the local farmer to chip into. All of the wood was being moved into the field and left in manageable bits for the village to help themselves.
All of the brush was removed from the tree and chipped by day one, but that was the easy bit! After closer inspection we found that the two cable braces in the top of the tree, joining one large stem to the other, were so tight that we could play a tune on one of them! This was going to cause us some concern.
This was old fashioned cable bracing, using techniques no longer used in the industry and for good reason. They consisted of a large coach style screw with an eye on the end screwed into the tree attached to 10mm thick steel cable and fixed to the other stem in the same method. This stuff is impossible to work with!
Done correctly and using up to date methods, cable bracing can serve it’s purpose of reducing the risks of failing limbs and in turn prolong the life of veteran trees whilst not causing problems to arborists who come to work on the tree in the future.
This bracing, however, was a combination of old fashioned methods and limited knowledge! Bracing should always be placed two thirds of the way up the canopy and never positioned on the end of limbs. This means that if the tree ever needed to be taken down, the arborist working on the tree can take as much weight off the tree as is needed to slacken the tight wires and undo the braces in a controlled manner. As I’m sure you have already guessed, the guys who fitted these braces decided to put them right at the top and one was fixed on the end of the largest limb of the tree. So even with all of the brushwood and timber taken off the tree up to the braces, the wires were still extra tight. There would be no other way than to cut the wires at source.
The next morning we climbed the tree, armed with a 4 inch cordless grinder to remove the pesky braces and get on with taking the rest of the tree down. There was never any danger to us when cutting the wires; we always take every measure to ensure complete safety on our sites. As arborists, we maintain complete control of all our work. Using modern techniques and with all our experience, we can control what happens and when. This was not the case when working with 30 year old steel cables. The issue was whether or not the half of the tree would be able to support itself, without the support of the wires. Or after cutting them, would it crash to the floor with a bang making a huge mess?
So this was it, would it stay up? Or would 15 tonnes of half dead Horse Chestnut come crashing down? One wire cut and then the second, the stem wobbles for what felt like 25 minutes then we heard the cracking from the main union at the base but somehow it stayed in position much to the relief of everyone on site.
Now we were free to take the rest of the tree down in our much favoured calm and controlled manner.
Sometimes these jobs throw up some obstacles that we have to overcome, but with a good team on board and some careful consideration we always find a solution. Thanks to everyone who worked very hard on this job, another job well done and a very impressed customer!