Wednesday, January 12, 2011


click photo to enlarge
I've just arranged for a large willow tree to be trimmed. It stands next to the stream at the edge of my garden, and is somewhere near as big as a willow gets. The decision to have some weight cut from its top wasn't taken lightly, but it seemed to be a better course of action than letting the wind break off boughs or, worse still, topple the whole tree. The contractor estimated that it was last trimmed ten to twelve years ago -  a mark of how quickly a willow will regenerate itself. The term he used was "pollarding", though the cutting we agreed is less drastic than what I envisage when I think of that term.

Pollarding in its true form is the regular cutting of a tree eight to twelve feet above ground level so that it grows again and produces successive crops of wood. This self-renewing power of trees was harnessed for centuries by woodsmen, and most trees were managed by either coppicing or pollarding. In coppicing, a technique that was applied to ash, wych elm and many other species, the tree was cut down and the stump (called the "stool") was allowed to send out shoots that grew into poles that were cropped every nine or ten years. Where animals grazed among the trees pollarding was favoured. The permanent trunk (called the "bolling") sprouted new growth above the height that they could reach. Because it is more labour intensive than coppicing it was favoured in woodland pastures and non-woodland areas, but not for the interiors of woods. Willow, poplar and several other types of tree were regular recipients of pollarding.

My photograph shows a row of pollarded poplars that form part of the boundary to a vegetable packing site. Presumably they were planted to screen the premises, and were cut because they were deemed to be too tall. I came upon them on a dark, heavily overcast afternoon. My image has been converted to black and white then given a slight sepia cast.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 24mm
F No: 7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/80
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On