Moving to the countryside: Part 18: An ancient oak falls

The heavy snow dislodges a massive oak tree in the garden… but what to do about it?

Published: March 6th, 2013 at 12:22 pm


What I’ve discovered with rural living is that whenever I have a moment to consider the ever-lengthening to-do list, something major comes along and plonks itself at the top. So with the snow all gone and sunshine hitting the hill, I was looking forward to digging the last veg bed, planting some early veg, coppicing a couple of hazels and moving things on a bit.

And then I noticed a big gap at the end of the garden where our back gate was supposed to be. Then I noticed a huge gap nearby where an old oak tree was supposed to be.

I soon found the oak tree – it had uprooted and fallen out of our garden and down the slope into a rough bit of land of questionable ownership. There must have been a terrific crash (we never heard it). Unfortunately, the fence bordering our garden had been nailed to the tree and so, when the oak fell, it dragged 30 yards of fence with it. An utter mess. 

To compound matters a flock of escaped sheep turned up to enjoy the easy access into the garden. Their little feet make a terrible mess of the rain and snow-sodden ground. Worse still, they ate about a quarter of our precious purple sprouting broccoli plants.

Struck down by flu, I could only watch as the little flock made merry with the lawn, only stirring myself when they threatened the veg patch again. Actually, it was my wife who did most of the re-fencing work, while I wheezed every time I lifted the sledgehammer to drive in the fence posts.

But with every disaster, there’s an opportunity. The oak must have about two years’ worth of firewood, if I’m brave enough to tackle it.

On the plus side, once I felt a bit better, I finally plucked up the courage to chainsaw the rest of the massive old hazel coppice. At the end of the job, I counted my limbs – four – and breathed a sigh of relief. My first big chainsaw challenge was over. The hazel itself looks a bit rough but hopefully it will grow back and I’ll be able to harvest it again – in seven years.


Fergus CollinsEditor, BBC Countryfile Magazine

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