You want a treehouse like this.

Who wouldn’t want a treehouse like this? Community-minded arboricuturalists Monkey-Do built it in Arundel Square, London. To fully appreciate it you need to check out the photos showing more detail.
Arundel Square Treehouse (c) Monkey-Do CIC

So, why is this particular play structure different to the pile of pallets your dad nailed up in the apple tree at the end of the garden?  Continue reading You want a treehouse like this.

Why do Naturenet readers want to kill everything?

After the Ranger’s spam rant you’d have thought that he’d have had enough of ferretting in his server stats. But no. Inspired by the popular “How you got here in…” series posted on Village Idiot The Ranger has been looking at the various things you lot type into search engines before you arrive, blinking, at The Rangers Blog. Here’s an unexpurgated sample from the last 10 hours:

… how can I kill a neighbour’s tree

rubbish tips gloucestershire

ivy how to kill ivy

how to kill ivy

copper nail kill tree

what kills cane toads?

copper nails

wildlife blog

copper nails and trees

can squirrels be shot

copper kills trees

august 2006 sunset magazine

forest ranger home …

Do you see a pattern? It’s perhaps not too subtle: a kind of genocidal tinge. The Ranger has often wondered what it would be like to meet the readers who use the various pages on Naturenet. Maybe, based on this, it might be better if he didn’t!

Chat up line

There was a time, way back, when the Virtual Ranger really was a ranger – complete with Land-Rover, chainsaw and radio. An enjoyable feature of that status was the number of people who said to me ‘Ooo, what a lovely job! I wish I did that.” Not that I felt inferior in any way to my peers who’d gone straight from university into accounting, commercial publishing, finance and so on; nor was I jealous of their allegedly prodigious remunerations. Still, I couldn’t help but crack an inner smile when I imagined how rarely “I’m a merchant banker” would have been greeted by “Ooo, what a lovely job…”.

Climbing the Goodleaf Tree, Appley Park, Ryde, Isle of Wight © Cat James

These days I spend most of my days pushing a mouse, and don’t get to see the countryside as often as I’d like. So you can probably see the glee in my face in the picture above, where I actually get to climb a tree as a part of my job. Yes, friends, they paid me to do this: your taxes strapped me in and hoisted me up. Thanks! And if you want to know why, read on. Continue reading Chat up line

Fighting dogs are destroying our urban trees

Dogs bred to fight, and dogs taught to attack people, are a serious problem in this country. It’s even attracting the attention of legislators. Earlier this year in a debate in the House of Lords, Lord Redesdale said:

This is an animal welfare problem and a growing social problem. Intimidation by dogs is now seen as an anti-social behaviour issue.

Dog with muzzle

Dog fighting is a serious issue in urban areas – a BBC report described how

Young men openly parade their illegal pit bull terriers saying how police cannot tell the difference – while the police with stretched resources can only play a limited role in tackling the problem.

What the Ranger didn’t realise is how this problem is affecting the urban forest. Remarkably, a growing number of casualties in the dog wars appear to be trees. Continue reading Fighting dogs are destroying our urban trees

Oliver Rackham – Woodlands

Book reviews by guest blogger Ray Harrington-Vail of the Footprint Trust Anyone who has a deep interest in the history of Britain’s woodlands and landscape would have read at least a couple of Dr Rackham’s excellent books. His most famous is The History of the Countryside (Dent 1986) which gives the reader a real insight to just how our landscape came to be. His work Trees and Woodland in the British Landscape (Dent 1976) is long accepted as the best work on the subject, being both a comprehensive history of Britain’s woodlands and a fieldwork guide that presents trees individually and as part of the landscape.

Woodlands - Oliver Rackham

After many years we now have Woodlands, part of the famous Collins New Naturalist series. It’s been quite a wait for Rackham fans but worth every minute. This new work focuses on new historical discoveries and theories. It puts woodlands within today’s context. In previous books the then current issues of inappropriate management by bodies, such as the Forestry Commission and the National Trust, and the threat of acid rain are mentioned. We now have Climate Change and the ongoing march of over-development. The carbon neutral con-trick is highlighted by Dr Rackham. He points out that planting trees cannot stop climate change, as they can’t live long enough. He continues to point out the dangers of inappropriate tree planting and the need to manage and sustain our woodland heritage. The ongoing menace of grey squirrels also gets a mention. This book, aimed at the non-specialist, investigates what woods are and how they function. In lively style, Rackham takes us through how woods evolved and how they are managed. Basic botany such as understanding roots, longevity and tree-rings are covered. The book, illustrated with colour photographs, includes the outline of woodland history, pollen analysis and wildwood, archives of woodland and how to study them, different types of woodland, and the rise and fall of modern forestry. A book well worth the wait, and recommended.

New species of tree discovered in UK

This is a one-in-a-lifetime headline. The trees of the British Isles are pretty well known, and the list of native British trees is not often revised. Now there is one more – and the new contender is a species new to science.

Catacol whitebeam tree, Sorbus pseudomeincichii (c)SNH

The Catacol whitebeam tree, Sorbus pseudomeincichii, is known from two specimens on the Isle of Arran. The tree is a cross between the native rowan and the cut-leaved whitebeam. The Isle of Arran is already home to two species of tree which do not occur anywhere else in the world, the Arran whitebeam (Sorbus arranensis) and the Arran cut-leaved whitebeam (Sorbus pseudofennica). Three trees of the new species were discovered in the 1990s but DNA tests had to be done before the species could be formally recognised and given a binomial name. Taxonomy is notoriously slow, and since the discovery one tree has died. Of the others, one is in poor condition while the remaining one is healthy. Like many new species discovered in such circumstances, the discovery owes as much to laboratory studies of the genetics of the trees than it does to fearless trekking into the wilds, but it’s nice to get another one for the list, nonetheless.

Killed by a falling tree: what are the chances?

The Ranger worked as a Tree Officer for some months not too long ago, and got quite an insight into the arcane world of TPOs and irate householders. A bit different from being a real Ranger, where pretty much everyone is glad to see you. A tree officer often has the thankless task of trying to preserve a tree against the wishes of the tree’s owner, who wants to fell the thing to get a sea view, or build a house. For some reason they rarely come out with the truth and say they want to fell it. They usually proffer some excuse, prefaced with “I like trees but…”. Perhaps the most common of these is the constant refrain heard by tree officers “But it’s a dangerous tree!“. Often the complainant then over-eggs the pudding with references to their little, blond grandchildren, innocently gamboling underneath the looming tree, which has regularly been heard to creak and groan ominously, and even, believe it or not, sway in the wind! It’s hard not to get cynical about some of these requests. It would be a lot better if they just came out and said “I want to sell off half my garden to build a block of eight flats on it.” Then at least we’d know where we all stood. But, can they always be wrong? Just how dangerous are trees, generically?

Tree fallen onto bicycle

Indeed, some individual trees are dangerous and need work. But that does not mean they all are. Often the dangers of trees are considerably overestimated. Just what are the chances of a tree falling on you and killing you? Chris Hastie, arboriculturalist and webmaster of the The UK Tree Care Mailing List recently got fed up with the assumptions that are made about such things. He writes:

After the storms the other month I was phoned by a journalist who questioned me about various things, mostly to do with a very large horse chestnut by the side of a busy road which managed to blow over and do no harm to anything except a lamp post. Trying to explain the nuances of risk management to her and knowing everything I said was going to be massively dumbed down, I started to wish I had a few soundbites at my fingertips.

So Chris took the question at face value and worked out some statistics. He started by pointing out that the chances of being killed by a tree in a public space in the UK is about 1 in 20,000,000 (according to the HSE’s draft Sector Information Minute). So, what about winning the lottery jackpot? Actually, Chris also demonstrated that rather than the 14 million to one which is usually quoted, the chances of winning it are actually better expressed as 1 in 268,920. This is because although the chances of winning with one ticket are indeed 1 in 13,983,816, accidental deaths are usually expressed as the chances of any incident happening to any person in one year. So, assuming a lottery player buys one ticket per week every week for a year, the odds are reduced to 1 in 268,920. Thus a regular lottery player is 75 times more likely to win the lottery jackpot than be killed by a tree in a public space. He goes on with some other sobering illustrations. The total number of accidental deaths in the UK number is over 12,000 per year. About 6 of these are due to trees. So you are 2000 times more likely to die from some other type of accident than by being hit by a falling tree. More specifically, 3,501 people were killed in road traffic accidents in the UK in 2005. So you are around 600 times more likely to be killed in a road accident than by a falling tree. The Ranger adds one of his own – the annual risk of death by lightning is 1 in 18,700,000. So you are more likely to be killed by a bolt of lightning than a falling tree. That seems to put things into perspective. Anyone else what to have a try? Cite your sources if you do!

Tree graffiti

The Ranger was patrolling around a very obscure part one of the sites he works at today, when he came across a huge beech tree with some intriguing inscriptions upon it. Some were predictable initials and others not for family viewing, but the following was perhaps the most entertaining…

Back in 5 mins

Disappointingly, although The Ranger waited for at least five minutes, the author did not return. Further notable inscriptions were to be found elsewhere on the tree, so you might get to see some of them another time…

Daft reasons to fell trees

The Ranger gets to hear some pretty feeble reasons for felling trees in his job – usually along the lines of ‘it spoils my sea view‘. Just ocassionally a more creative one slips through the net, but recently, Copeland Borough Council in Cumbria had a corker from the lips of Cllr Mr Gilbert Scurrah (pictured), the Conservative member for Millom Without.

Cllr Mr Gilbert Scurrah

Mr Scurrah produced this remarkable argument during a planning meeting when Copeland Borough Council approved plans for eight new sheltered homes to be built, at the cost of 16 mature trees used by nesting birds. He said:

“With avian flu, we should be having them out.”

This is exactly the kind of over-reaction that could really mean that bird flu causes serious problems even if it never arrives here. It might be expected that people in Cumbria – seriously affected by the foot-and-mouth crisis, but equally seriously affected by the catastrophic decline in tourism that year – would be the first to realise that irrational scare stories are almost as serious a threat to the rural landscape as is the deadly virus itself. Felling trees to avoid bird flu is just silly. No, worse – it’s dangerous and wrong, because it sends out a flawed message, and one which could have serious consequences. Perhaps Cllr Mr Scurrah meant his comments in jest. The Ranger has sat through one or two planning meetings in his time and he knows that an injection of levity is rarely unwelcome. But there are jokes, and there is foolishness.

‘I like trees but…’ Yes, of course you do

Those crazy Australians are poisoning trees to open up sea views! The Ranger is amazed that this story needed to come from as far afield as Sydney. In his experience, this sort of thing is going on all the time. And he should know – working on the Isle of Wight where sea views are highly valued, and trees are highly protected, he can attest from long personal experience to the commonplace nature of this fundamental dispute between trees and humans – and thus, perhaps more obviously, between humans and humans. It’s a great enigma, often articulated by those affected, why people choose to move into an area with many trees in it, and then begin to cut them down. Whilst sometimes a long-standing resident will be the culprit, it seems to be remarkably often that an incomer is the one who starts a program of suble, or not-so-subtle, tree removal. Why, the puzzled neighbours ask, did they move here, with all these trees, if all they want to do is take them down? The Ranger has never satisfactorily explained this phenomenon. It may just be coincidence, but when the culprits are asked the same question, they can never come up with an answer either. Their response, if there is one, usually starts with something along the lines of “I like trees, but…”. So why do they do it? One theory points the finger at the rise of ‘garden makeovers’ and heavy engineering in the shrubbery, supported by retailers hiring and selling more plant and fewer plants. Certainly it seems that we now have the expectation that our gardens should be exactly how we want them, immediately. The idea of working with what already exists, or of waiting for it to develop, seems to be out of favour with most gardeners. Nor may the wishes and aspirations of neighbours be a factor in their considerations. Gardening, today, is perhaps more like home decorating. The downside of removing trees to improve the view, and the usual reason for objections by others, is that trees work in more than one direction as a screen. From outside the garden, the trees screen the buildings, making a nicer view for everyone else. Perhaps a more measured and patient approach would lead to a better environment for us all.