I’m going to talk trees for a bit.

Back in July the 100 year old Lime tree at the junction of Alleyns Lane and Dean Lane was felled because of damage to its tree roots.  You’ll remember that the drainage contractors dug a trench across the small green and through the Lime’s fine network of roots.  And then they cut straight through the electric mains.  South East Electricity had to come in to repair, and they caused more damage to the root system as they were trying to reconnect us to the network – hence we lost the tree.  There was a huge hoo-haa because it was an iconic tree in the village AND because the contractors had very likely breached all sorts of rules by doing what they did.  So to bring you up to date…

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) at least felt there was action (or inaction) by the contractors that required investigation.  However, here we are 7 months later and information on the progress of that investigation seems to be impossible to obtain.  The outcome (if there has been one) remains a complete mystery and no doubt the contractors are little concerned.

Meanwhile, the Parish Council consulted the residents on what to replace the Lime tree with, and after help from the WildCookham, they settled on another deciduous tree called a Wild Service tree, a rare native tree, that has both flowers and fruit.  The thought was that it would provide interest all year round and be an excellent habitat for nature.  The fruits are called “Chequers” and are thought to have given rise to the (general) pub name which also makes you wonder if there were more Service trees in this area, giving us our own “Chequers” pub further down Dean Lane.  The RBWM told us that tree planting season was October/November and we were all looking forward to seeing this small area back to rights in that timeframe.  It was a surprise then that the tree (only ordered in October and just arrived with the RBWM) is another Lime.  They tell us that a Wild Service Tree is not suitable for that location - which of course is entirely fair enough.  But I am frustrated that they would ask such a question, provide no arboreal guidance on what might be appropriate, let us invest time and energy in coming up with an answer, and then deliver no response other than re-planting the original species.   Anyway, the new tree should be in situ by March, which will only leave replacing the commemorative plaque as the final challenge.

Moving on, The National Trust also have a lot to do with the trees in our village – because so much of the land is owned by them.  With an area such as the Maidenhead and Cookham Commons, after a storm (and we’ve had a few this winter!) they will do an inspection of the most public areas.  So for example, they might drive to the car park at The Moor to ensure that nothing has fallen and requires attention.  Trees down across footpaths on more remote NT land, need to be reported in order to be assessed.  Tree surgery is an expensive business, and they are trying to pull together funding to carry out necessary works on some of the most notable trees in the village.  In particular, the willows at Widbrook and Cockmarsh, really need to be re-pollarded.  Pollarding is a way of reducing the size of a tree and is something that ideally, would happen every year to maintain their distinctive shape, so these trees are long over-due attention.  Another skill that the NT use on the MCC site is coppicing, a centuries old technique of woodland management.  It involves repetitive felling of species such as willow, chestnut, ash and hazel to promote multiple new stems and it was a way to rapidly grow a high volume of new wood, in a sustainable fashion.  Coppicing has significantly impacted British Woodlands over the years and has huge benefits for biodiversity.  You can have a go at this ancient technique because the NT will be running a workshop at Winter Hill on January 27th so you can learn something new, and your participation will actually be benefiting the wildlife in our area.  

So next time you are out for a walk, or even driving in the car, you might decide to take a moment to consider the trees around us and how lucky we are to (still) have so many fabulous examples.

The second of the three Lime trees that were planted in the village in 1901


  1. Further info from David Scott from the Communities Directorate at RBWM

    "The lime tree was chosen due to the fact it is a direct replacement for the memorial tree, that was historically linked and integral to the local landscape (adjacent mature lime trees aligning Dean Lane). The site conditions (soil, drainage, light, exposure, space within the grass verge to develop a strong root system) are ideal for the genus Tilia. Lime trees are more resilient to urban pressures (pruning, air pollution, elevated salt levels from gritting the roads), and while they are susceptible to several known wood decay pathogens (Ganoderma, Ustulina) they are generally robust urban trees.

    The service tree is a sub canopy woodland species that grows well in ash and oak woodlands on clay and chalk soils. Like all members of the Roseaceae family It is highly susceptible to silver leaf disease and fireblight (common urban pathogens) and in my experience does not establish well or tolerate soils with elevated salt content."

    I hadn't heard of subcanopy species before. So much to learn! It seems also, sadly that salt pollution plays a big role in choice. I think we were right to ask for the smaller tree that several local residents whose homes are overshaddowed by the old tree would have preferred, but we want something that will survive and look healthy. So the Lime Tree does seem to be a sensible choice.

    Cllr Fiona Hewer
    Cookham Parish Council


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