The broken woods

The very first time we looked at the land, using Google Maps in April 2019, we saw woods, and meadow land with a scattering of individual trees. When I visited the land the first time at the beginning of May that year, I saw how one of the big trees (which I later identified as a goat willow) had split and fallen apart, spread about like an opened umbrella (Google Maps was clearly out of date). In the woods bordering Danish Camp I saw many trees with broken limbs and great cracks in the trunks. . . More goat willows.

Scroll forward to February 2020, heavy rains and high winds increased the existing damage, and contributed to yet another goat willow splitting asunder. From then on I kept a keen eye on particular trees to see what further damage they suffered. In one area I found a tree that, in high winds, moved so much that the roots were exposed and a cavity was forming underneath the tree itself. [I filmed the tree for several minutes, knowing that if I didn’t I would be standing watching it, gormlessly, as it fell. . . Somehow, it still stands today.]


Many of the broken and partially fallen trees had toppled into other trees, in an arboreal version of the domino effect. Clearly this was a trend that would continue until all the willows had suffered similarly. So, something needed to be done.


I arranged for a tree officer from Beds Borough Council (BBC) to visit Stackmoor, to advise me on possible solutions, and particularly on what I needed to do to apply for planning permission to remove some of the trees. [As the people of Willington are well aware, the whole area is covered with a tree preservation order (TPO), so planning permission is needed before I can cut down any trees, let alone just remove damaged branches…]


So earlier this month I applied for planning permission to carry out work in five areas:

(i) Cutting back the hawthorn and brambles that are choking a young oak tree.

(ii) The removal of the goat willow that fell in March 2020, clearing the way for probably four new trees to be planted (subject to suitability as that area floods).

(iii) Removal of three broken and partially fallen trees – again, to make way for new trees to be planted.

(iv) The removal of five goat willows, all of which show signs of similar growth fractures that will, in time, cause them to split and fall.

(v) The removal of a tight clump of self-seeded goat willow, currently little more than saplings, but in time will have similar growth/fail issues.


The completion of (iv) and (v) will open up the canopy cover in the main woods, and allow an opportunity for new growth. The flooding here is extensive – already (Dec 2020) it is as bad as it was in late Jan 2020 – so I have ideas for a different project. But more on that another time…


I do not anticipate that there should be any serious opposition (other than those to object to, without even asking about the purpose for, the work, on some misguided principle) and should be able to start work in earnest in Feb 2021. The details and progress of these five areas of work will be detailed in individual blogs, starting with the current state…