A Day in the Lake District: Removing Tree Guards

We've recently had a gorgeous day up in the Lake District as part of our efforts to improve local woodland. The temperature was just above freezing and the mountains had a lovely covering of snow. Summer or winter, it's hard to beat the Lake District for the best of English beauty.

Our trip was to work in a wood that we planted 5 years ago. The ground was previously planted with oak, ash, holly and silver birch, and when these were planted we fitted each with a Tubex tree guard for protection. These tree guards have played a large part towards the successful growth of the trees.

tree guards
Image courtesy of Mike Kirby

 

The guard is a plastic tube fitted around the tree and 'whip' size (the whip is the name for it when it's still a young seedling) and held in place with a small stake. Most likely you've seen these on trees before, if they have been planted recently. The tree guard is designed to protect against local herbivores, such as sheep and deer, encourage the tree to grow a strong trunk before it branches out and provide an environment that helps the tree grow strong. This makes a huge difference in the tree's early years and if at any time you are planting wood land these guards are a must.

What we were doing on our visit was cutting the guard off, since the trees are now around 75 cm in diameter. The replacement level in the wood is minimal due to these guards, but if they were left on any longer they could stunt the tree's growth, having the opposite of their desired effect as the tree gets bigger. Now that the trees are tall and strong, local wildlife poses much less of a threat.

Going forward the trees will be left to carry on growing for another couple of years before we go in and cut the side branches off to encourage upward straight tree growth. Trees naturally grow more at the top, and so chopping off the lower branches encourages this upwards growth, creating trees that are tall and strong, not having to support lower down branches that often aren't used as much as the higher up ones anyway.

At the same time, we are working on a community project in Lancaster which is trying to restore a piece of local wood land to its former glory. The first part of this project is to thin the wood to let more light in, and help the best trees succeed on their way to full size.

The wood that gets remove is taken as timber in 3m lengths, and we take it back to our log yard to be turned into kiln dried logs for you. The next part of the project is to put some proper paths through the wood to help the wider community use it more, and to help them understand the importance of conservation.

We have put the volunteers in touch with Lancashire Rural Development Fund who help the projects achieve their goals.