Green Places Magazine Publish ‘Flourishing Trees, Flourishing Minds’
27th July 2012
Psithurism: the sound of wind whispering through the trees
6th January 2013


The postings on the blog page have been few and far between of late, largely due to me being kept busy with a large tree survey of all the roadside trees in Sheffield. In light of this I thought I’d share some of this lovely document; produced circa 1947 by the Council for the preservation of rural England, Sheffield and Peak District Branch (now C.P.R.E South Yorkshire).
What struck me most about the 65 year old pamphlet is how contemporary many of the issues highlighted are; if you were to give it to the graphic designers to work on, it could be the latest Trees and Design Action Group (TDAG) document!  

FOR many years we have tried to persuade those who are responsible in our district for the care of street trees to adopt methods of pruning which do not damage the trees or rob them of all their shapeliness. Our pleas have not been successful, and sometimes our defence of beauty has been countered by assertions that trees are not damaged or misshapen by drastic lopping, and that in any case necessity demands such treatment. We hope this pamphlet will arouse the reader’s interest in the management of trees and perhaps win his support for our view that in many districts the beauty of street trees is being progressively diminished, and that it is high time that improved methods of tree management were considered.
There is no apparent reason for the frightful treatment of this oak.
The tree stands on a verge twenty feet wide, and well away and to the east of the nearest houses. Unfortunately this is not an unusual or isolated example.
This indifference to Beauty will
call down a revenge on us one day. WM- Morris.
I. There was no need to lop these trees at all; they stand remote from buildings at the road side edge of a small park.
 II. Drastic and uniform pruning without any regard for the species of tree or the purpose of the group. A better way would have been to have thinned the group by taking out one or two trees and leaving the remainder untouched with more space to grow.

In many streets of our industrial towns, trees have been planted where there is too little space for their full growth, so that some of them now prevent light and air reaching dwellings, or get in the way of vehicles upon the road, or interfere with garden walls and underground services.
It is impossible to justify either these ill-effects or the application of remedies which, while removing the obstruction, damage the structure and appearance of trees.
The results of such remedies, some of which are illustrated here, show that their treatment is often fundamentally wrong. The uniform application of the most drastic treatment to all trees, irrespective of their species, or of the degree of obstruction they cause, and the serious faults so often committed in pruning leave no room for doubt that the management of trees planted in streets has not received sufficiently serious consideration.
A survey should be carried out in which the position, species and condition of all street trees should be observed and recorded. judgment of the obstructive effect of trees has to be left to the common sense and experience of the expert employed. He should be guided by the following considerations: –
I. The wishes of the householders.
2. The aspect of the dwelling.
3. The position and topography of the site.
4, The exclusion of light and air due to other causes.
5. The force and direction of the prevailing wind.
1. The extent of the damage caused by interference.
2. The possibility of diverting footpaths and boundary walls to save the tree.
3. The effective headroom clearance on footpaths and carriageways, which should be no less than seven feet on the former, and sixteen feet on the latter.
The extent of the danger caused on main traffic routes.
Before any remedies are taken to overcome the troubles diagnosed and recorded in the survey, the special part which is being played scenically by the trees should be considered.
Trees serve a number of distinct scenic purposes, among which the following are common in relation to our streets: –
I. To provide a background or visible boundary to an estate or neighbourhood.
2. To act as a foil to architectural groups and features.
3. To ornament an unoccupied site.
4. To form an avenue.
Treatment of a tree without regard to its scenic purpose may defeat that purpose utterly.
It is relatively simple to decide whether a particular treatment will break the continuity of a background of trees, or leave gaps or otherwise cause a lack of balance in an avenue; but considerations of this kind, though essential, are negative. Once it is required to replace trees, principles are needed to guide the choice correctly so that the trees may fit their surroundings and play their part as effectively as possible. Such principles are in the province of the artist or architect, but can readily be appreciated by the layman.
Pruning, repairing, felling and replanting are the remedies available for obstructive or unhealthy trees. If a heavy pruning or felling programme is unavoidable, the result will be harsh and unacceptable to the public if the whole operation is carried out at once.
Modern practice is to make the operation a progressive one, as for instance in “selection” pruning where trees are gone over and branches removed every three years.
The late Mr W. J. Bean, the great authority on trees and shrubs, who was for many years Curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said that of all the arts that go to make up horticulture pruning is the one most frequently misapplied.
It is often forgotten: a) That the true aim of pruning a large growing tree is to make it as perfect a specimen as possible by improving its shape, or its yield, or its health, and b) that the lopping of boughs to remove some real or imagined obstruction has no justification arboriculturally. If an obstruction is intolerable and lopping must be resorted to, it should be fully understood that the tree will not be improved by the operation and that the greatest care is needed throughout the work to keep the damage within reasonable bounds.
(Hat-tip to Dr Mark Johnston for the pamphlet).
I'm a Chartered Arboriculturist at AWA Tree Consultants Ltd. As well as detailing our recent tree survey and arboricultural consultant work, this blog includes wide ranging arboricultural musings, including tree facts, opinion and anecdotes on trees in human culture.

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