Focus on Tree Work

Our Maintenance Team have been hard at work over the last few months and their workload remains extremely varied.  While recent jobs have included heathland restoration work, clearing invasive weeds out of ponds, tree planting and litter picking, one job that has continued to dominate much of the team’s resources has been the ongoing need to maintain the safety of the Commons’ trees.

We are often asked about why we cut down trees, and indeed, why are we cutting down trees to sell the wood on our log pile.   We have a policy here on the Commons not to cut down trees unless they are, or can create, a potential danger to our visitors.  This may be because they are aged or are diseased - quite often a tree can look fine from the outside, but may be riddled through with disease inside, ready to blow over in the wind at any time.

However, although cutting down the occasional tree is unfortunately an inevitable part of this work, there is a hidden benefit which can often be overlooked, and this is the creation of dead wood habitats.

Dead wood can provide an extremely important habitat for wildlife.  An example of this is Stag Beetles, for which the Commons have a Special Area of Conservation designation.  Stag Beetles in their larval stage can spend anything from 3 to 7 years buried underground and buried in dead wood.  Our Team have created several buried wood habitats around the Commons to encourage the larvae, particularly around the Nature Trail.



Jack Rowland, Maintenance Manager, commented "Perhaps one of the most important ways of insuring that adequate levels of this habitat are available on site is through the creation of standing deadwood or monoliths.  For example, a large Beech tree on Parkside was found to be infected with a fungal condition known as Kretzchmaria deusta or Brittle Cinder fungus.  This fungus has the potential to severely weaken trees by causing deep seated decay within the lower stem and roots and would inevitably lead to the death of the tree".  Given its location, the tree was made safe and subsequently transformed into a standing monolith and left on site as a viable habitat for a huge range of wildlife. 

The trees are now left with coronet cuts which can be seen as the uneven cuts or rips at the ends of the branches that have been left protruding out of the tree. These cuts not only give the remaining tree a storm damaged appearance but they provide a better habitat, such as holding water for birds and insects to drink, and also are a vital way of encouraging the tree to decay in a more natural way.



Dan Bentley, the Commons ‘Tree King’ in the process of creating a monolith by removing the dead and dangerously unstable upper limbs of a Turkey Oak behind Highlands Heath on Putney Heath.


A standing monolith with "coronet cuts".