Praise the Lord for the green spruce aphid

This article was featured recently in the Hexham Courant.

Praising the Spruce aphid may seem an odd thing to do, and I daresay the heading has raised the blood pressure of a few foresters, but cast your mind back to last summer…..

Across the North East, summer 2015 saw one of the worst outbreaks of Green Spruce Aphid that I can recall, with much of our Sitka Spruce suffering severe defoliation, with those in small woods and shelter belts seemingly being the worst affected. It looked awful but was perhaps a blessing in disguise. December and January brought us the strongest winds that we have suffered for over 15 years, coupled with saturated ground. Yes, there was damage to our trees and woodland, but just think how much more severe it could have been if our Sitka was fully foliated. Funny old girl, that Mother Nature.

However, there has been considerable damage to woodlands and individual trees, some of which is obvious but other damage may not be so obvious. All owners of trees owe a duty of care to the public. Following the case of Poll v Bartholomew, back in 2006 and subsequent guidance produced by the National Tree Safety Group, most owners have now implemented an inspection regime and action plan, which is properly recorded.

Subsequent tragic cases, where large branches have fallen from mature trees for no obvious reason, have been found to be accidents. However, this was largely because the trees involved were subject to regular inspection and there was no sign of impending disaster. Given the severity of the winter storms, it is really worth considering exercising your duty of care by carrying out a tree inspection this spring. The severity of the storms may well merit bringing forward planned inspections. This is particularly relevant to high risk sites, where the public may visit frequently, such as parks, woodland walks, open gardens and golf courses.

It was not that long ago when I had a close shave near Hexham. A large branch falling from a dead elm narrowly missed me whilst I was taking a walk along the Allen. While I would be delighted to assist you, I don’t really fancy featuring in a case involving falling branches!

If you would like any further information or to discuss any rural related matter, please contact Tom Wills, head of the agriculture & estates department at Sintons.

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