New life for fallen trees

Trees at our woodland, parkland and gardens were lost in the winter storms of 2013. We spoke to our places to see how they've put the fallen trees to use.

Woodland on the Eastern slope at Black Down, West Sussex

Black Down 

Dave Elliot, head ranger at Black Down, said: ‘We mostly only clear fallen trees when they are over roads, paths or neighbouring properties. Those that fall in the woods stay for habitat value. ‘We need some timber for a natural play trail we are building as well as for our new Orchard House; a roundwood cruck-framed barn and workshop space. This will house our apple and orchard based activities and events.’

View of beech trees at Frithsden beeches with a broken pollarded beech branch in the foreground

Dunstable Downs, Whipsnade Estate 

Jon Powell, countryside manager for Dunstable Downs, said: ‘Our major tree losses were during the St Jude storm in October when we lost a couple of old beeches. ‘We took the smallest branches to Whipsnade Zoo for their rhinos’ food, who seemed very grateful. Larger pieces have been used to create a new ‘scramble’ in the chute wood playscape, the stump has been left to create a deadwood habitat and other bigger branches from a damaged oak have been used to create informal benches. ‘After all that, any timber that we have left over will be converted in to firewood for our office.'

Conifer tree branches at Bodnant Garden, Conwy, Wales


At Harewoods in the Surrey Hills, 200 conifer trees were lost from winter storms. The trees were originally planted as part of a broadleaf oak and conifer plantation in order to encourage the growth of the oak trees. A combination of the saturated soil from the winter storms and a series of tornadoes across Surrey caused 90% of the conifers to fall at the beginning of this year. Many of the fallen trees were cleared to allow public access, but the rest were left in situ. Mark Richards, head ranger on the Surrey Hills, said: ‘The way that the conifers fell, in a mix of directions creating a criss-cross of branches, means that they are providing a fantastic habitat for ground-nesting birds, including pheasants and grey partridges. ‘Long-term we are still deciding what will happen. We will either let it naturally regenerate or consider carrying out replanting in some of the larger open areas with native broadleaf species.’

Fallow deer in the park at Charlecote Park, Warwickshire

Charlecote Park 

Lisa Topham, our park and garden manager at Charlecote Park, told us how they are using the trees that were lost across the estate: ‘One of the oaks we lost is now a climbing tree, and another tree will be made into stepping logs for children to climb. A lovely visitor has taken some of the wood from an old cedar tree, which was reputed to have been planted by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. He will be making it into candle holders for us to sell.’

Looking towards The River Fal from Trelissick Garden, Cornwall


Head ranger on the Trelissick Estate, Neil Stevenson, said: 'We lost a lot of trees, including several veterans in the park and woodland. ‘Turkey and Holm oak are large, impressive trees, but the timber quality is very poor. We tend to leave these oaks within the woodlands where the greatest benefit can be gained by allowing them to rot and provide a wildlife habitat for many species. ‘Sessile oak, on the other hand, can produce fantastic timber which is used in the boat building yards around the Fal. ‘Lime wood is a fabulous timber for carving. We try to retain as much wood from parkland trees as possible on-site as the conservation value is our top priority, but we are able to take out portions of the lime which are sold to local wood turners and carvers.’

Close view of fallen rotting oak with mosses and lichens in Horner Wood, Holnicote Estate, Somerset

Osterley Park 

Lead ranger at Osterley Park and House, Jeremy Dalton, said: ‘We are leaving some of the trunks untouched in order to create habitats. We are also building habitat piles from the branches. ‘Where we are unable to leave the trees in place, they are being cut for firewood and sold in our car park. We are also making additional features in our popular natural play trail.'