Failed Stem on a Lime Tree in a Church Yard

This case study examines the failure of a large stem on a lime tree situated in a churchyard. The lime tree had grown into a lapsed pollard, showing visible cracks in its lower parts, presenting a potential hazard to the surroundings, including delicate grave headstones. Here we discuss the process of mitigating this risk by reducing the canopy, using a Mobile Elevating Work Platform (MEWP), and carefully removing the tree's upper crown, all while ensuring the safety of the work area with minimal disruption.

Tree Identification

The tree in question was a mature lime tree located within the churchyard. Over time, it had developed into a lapsed pollard. It is important to carry out proper pruning and maintenance on trees in order to reduce the risk of failure and maintain good health and structure.

Tree Assessment: Cracks in Lower Stems

Routine tree inspections revealed visible cracks in the lower stem. These cracks were indicative of structural vulnerabilities that could lead to failure.

Given the tree's location within the churchyard and its proximity to delicate graves, the presence of structural issues posed a significant risk. A failure could result in damage to the graves, property, and a safety hazard to visitors.

Mitigation Measures

To address the risk and mitigate the structural issues associated with the lime tree, the following actions were taken:

1. Canopy Reduction:

It was decided to reduce the canopy of the lime tree to its previous pollard heads. This involved selectively pruning and reducing the upper branches to alleviate stress on the lower, compromised sections of the tree. The canopy reduction was performed at an approximate height of 4 meters above ground level.

2. Use of a MEWP:

To safely access the upper portions of the tree and perform the canopy reduction, a Mobile Elevating Work Platform (MEWP) was utilised. The MEWP allowed arborists to work at height in accordance with the Work at Height Regulations. The operation was conducted with experienced operators who were experienced and competent in using the equipment.

3. Drop Zone Management:

Due to the limited space in the churchyard caused by the presence of grave stones, drop zone management was a critical consideration. Protective measures were utilised to ensure that falling branches and debris did not damage any gravestones or property.

Outcome of the Lime Tree

The lime tree's structural issues were successfully addressed through canopy reduction, using a MEWP to access the crown. The drop zone management procedures ensured the delicate graves were protected from potential damage.

Proactive Tree Management

This case study underscores the importance of proactive tree maintenance in sensitive environments such as churchyards. The use of a MEWP to carry out a canopy reduction, and careful drop zone management effectively preserved both the tree and the surrounding area. It highlights the significance of considering not only the tree's health but also the safety of the immediate environment, when undertaking tree work operations. The use of specialised equipment like MEWPs is invaluable in such scenarios, ensuring safety and compliance during the tree management process.

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