Our monterey pine is having to come down

Tom Hill, Trees & Woodland Adviser Tom Hill Trees & Woodland Adviser
Large monterey pine on the edge of the first lake

We love our trees and always avoid felling unless we really have to. Unfortunately the time has come for us to take down our large monterey pine, on the edge of the first lake, because it is decaying and becoming unsafe. We are all going to mourn the loss of this remarkable tree and we know how much it means to many of our visitors. 

Why is the tree having to come down?

Monterey pines typically have a lifespan of around 80 to 90 years. We believe that ours was planted 120 years ago as part of a wider collection of trees from this species. This one has reached a remarkable 5.6 metres in girth.

Sheffield Park is known for its monterey pines and this will be a great loss, especially with its prominent position near to the house. It has been enjoyed by thousands of people and given great care by our staff over its lifetime.

Every year we have been asking ourselves if we can reasonably justify keeping the tree in terms of maintaining a safe space for our visitors to come and enjoy.

Does it really have to be done?

We have tracked the tree’s decline, in our annual surveys, for the last decade. It has dropped several branches in the past few years, during or shortly after storms. 

The tree has a decay fungi – ‘cauliflower fungus’ - acting upon its base and root system. This is part of the natural processes of decay which all trees have to undergo when they reach the latter stages of their lives. Due to its high profile location we have to be proactive in removing the risk that its current condition poses.

" The decay has reached a stage where we need to intervene  to prevent it losing more branches or being blown over entirely, which would cause a significant risk to people and other trees in our collection because it is no longer anchored sufficiently into the ground. We have considered having aerial work done to the tree’s canopy to reduce its size, but unfortunately, given the tree’s age and condition, we don’t feel this would be a sustainable option."
- Tom Hill, Trees & Woodland Adviser

What about wildlife habitats in the tree?

We wholly value trees and their importance to wildlife as vital habitats. This year, we led a partnership project with Plumpton Agricultural College where we identified and mapped almost 200 trees across the Sheffield Park estate with particularly high wildlife habitat potential for bats, birds, invertebrates, fungi and rare lichen. We continue to prioritise these trees and ensure their conservation. In relative terms, the monterey pine, which originates from regions of California and Mexico, has a lower wildlife value in supporting native species when compared to, say, our ancient oaks and beech trees.

Monterey pine across the lake at Sheffield Park, East Sussex
Large monterey pine from a distance on the edge of the first lake
Monterey pine across the lake at Sheffield Park, East Sussex

What plans are there for the future?

Looking to the future, we are hoping to conserve all of the other monterey pines in our collection, and to sustain them as long as possible. We are already working on ensuring that we have successor trees in place elsewhere. 

We will take a fresh look at how the new space created in the garden by the tree’s removal fits with new opportunities for planting and design, just as the distinguished architects of the landscape would have done over the past 300 years.

When will the work take place?

The monterey pine will be taken down on the week beginning 16 September. Sheffield Park and Garden will be open as usual and there will be a safety cordon in place.

Please feel that you can leave a note in our comments box if you would like to say what the tree meant to you and we will treasure these memories.

- Tom Hill, Trees & Woodland Adviser