A large, old and gnarled sweet chestnut tree at Sheffield Park, East Sussex, in autumn

Pollarding is an ancient form of tree management. Trees are grown within grazed pastures and the tree’s crown was regularly cut at around eight feet high, well above the browsing height of the stock below.

This allowed the land to be used for both grazing animals and to provide useful material from the trees. The uses varied between species and location which in turn determined the pollarding cycle.
In the uplands, ash and holly were often cut every five to ten years in the summer months while in leaf and gathered for winter fodder, the woody branches of the ash could also be used to provide handles for rakes and other farm tools.
Oak was cut on a longer cycle of 20 to 25 years to provide firewood. Around London, hornbeam was cut on a short cycle to provide fuel for the bread ovens of London.
The practice of pollarding died off over a hundred years ago leaving the lapsed pollards that we can now see in some of our parklands.