Heavy machinery helps remove dangerous trees

Red arrows point to fallen trees

The ‘Beast from the east’ in 2018 brought snow and high winds to Lydford Gorge bringing down several trees. Most of these were successfully cleared by the ranger team with occasional help from local tree surgeons.

The two trees that came down above the Devil’s Cauldron however were too tricky for the rangers to deal with themselves. The trees were both over 20m tall and instead of landing on the ground, became stuck in two other trees growing on the edge of the deepest part of the gorge. In some respects this was lucky, if they had fallen down 35m to the bottom of the gorge, they would have severely damaged the paths and getting them out would have been far more difficult.

A large local tree surgery company was given the task of organising their safe removal. On the day the road was shut to bring in two large cranes, a cherry picker and a heavy duty chipper. 

Two large cranes
Two large cranes
Two large cranes

The smaller crane, at just 45 tonnes, was fitted with a basket to carry the tree surgeons up to the trees to attach the lifting chain. The bigger crane weighed in at 62 tonnes and was used to lift the fallen trees out whole. A rough calculation of the weight of the larger of the two fallen trees puts it at 7.5 tonnes. When the crane hoisted this tree upright there was a loud crack as the remaining wood that was holding the trunk to the roots snapped. Then the tree was laid down safely on the woodland floor.

Tree surgeons in a basket suspended from a crane
Tree surgeons in the basket suspended from the crane
Tree surgeons in a basket suspended from a crane

While the machinery was on site the tree surgeons pollarded the Oak that had been holding the larger fallen tree. Pollarding involves removing the whole crown of the tree and it was done to reduce the chance of this tree falling into the gorge. The tree will re-grow from where it has been cut. Another tree, a smaller Sycamore, was also removed completely from where it was growing on the edge of the gorge.

The trees in the gorge that are next to the paths are all assessed annually by the ranger team, who look for any defects or signs that a tree might not be safe. Then they will do what work is necessary to ensure as far as possible that the trees are strong and stable. Being ancient woodland on a steep sided river valley there will always be trees that come down during stormy weather. This is the reason we have to shut the gorge walks when high winds are forecast.

Fallen trees are not always a bad thing though; in the right place. They are a great habitat for creatures that need rotting wood to live on, which in turn provide food for other birds and animals that live in the gorge. Some of the wood will also be used for our woodland sculpture events, so that as a visitor you can take a small piece of the gorge home with you in the shape of a woodland creature or whatever design you can imagine.

A spider sculpture made at the gorge
Spider sculpture made from local wood
A spider sculpture made at the gorge