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Try, try, try again

Updated: Apr 4, 2019

The properties backing onto and side on to ours have lots of trees. Mostly these are Ash and hawthorn. Together with our own hawthorn,unknown prunous and elder there are up to fifty trees as well as numerous suckers, which have self seeded and are anything from 1" thick to 12", many have several lower branches growing in a bowl like shape. Honey suckle and ivy also have an astonishing stronghold.

Brambles cover most things, including the trees, but also the surrounding area which has to be removed before the trees can be reached and cut down. Where the brambles are thinner nettles and thistles proliferate.

These are between 4 and 6' high.

In order to get about the garden I need to scythe as an electric cutter is not suitable, a cable won't reach far enough and a battery cutter would run out of charge too quickly. I'm not strong enough to wield a petrol cutter and don't enjoy the noise either, I like scything as it does not disturb the wildlife, I can see and hear it as I work. The ground is too uneven and too full of brambles and tree suckers to mow safely without damage. Some of the brambles are almost as wide as a wrist. They run for metres into the tops of the trees entwined in the trees branches and previous years bramble growth. Its amazing to see how it grows and survives, but it's a daunting job to try to remove it. We have removed it before a couple of years ago and now have new patches which are huge.

To remove unwanted trees I need to cut the undergrowth back but I need to be able to see the stumps at chest height. Any lower and I'm likely to hit a stump with my scythe or trip over a low stump and land head first in a bank of nettles and brambles. This has been practised to perfection.

If only I could bowl as well, I'd be on the England team.

When I do, I may need more than a few Dock leaves and I have images of the Prince in Rapunzel who became blind after falling in nettles.

Anyway back to cutting down the encroaching trees. The ash trees are reasonably easy to cut, although getting to the to the trunk, past the hard pointy barbs on the end of each twig. There are lots of them and the wood seems quite hard to saw.

The hawthorn trees are anything but easy . They are covered with thorns and the ends of twigs and branches have sharp caps which scratch and cut and prevent us getting close to the trunk.

It takes a lot of time and energy to get close enough to any of the trees to saw cut them down. It's going to be a very long process.

It's two seasons since we cut back the trees in the orchard. They have started growing again, with huge shoots everywhere. The brambles are also romping back with abundance and will need digging out.

Having allowed time for the orchard to adjust to having 60% of it's trees chopped back, I think now is the time to make severe adjustments. I have tried cutting back and covering with black plastic. Although good in theory this hasn't worked for me. The trees just re-route around the plastic. It might work if we were considering 5 or slightly more trees and a few overgrown plants, but it's far from that and mostly I'm on my own, with just occasional help.

I have so much fighting to do against nature, it's a battle I am probably going to lose, so against my preference I am going to use root killer to kill the stumps we take down and the ones which are copiced from previous exploits.

Hopefully that will give me the space to do additional work elsewhere and start to turn things around, over winter at least. Spring is a whole new challenge.

We also need to dig out the roots of the brambles, as much as we can to reduce that battle. If I can keep the remaining ones low to the ground, I can hack them down repeatedly and hopefully they will give up the fight. First I need to clear as much ground as possible to build a fire pit to burn all the bramble branches and roots. Hopefully this may keep on top of them. In the long term I would love to replace the brambles and nettles with wild thyme, chamomile and wild flowers but I'm a long way away from that so far.

We have discovered that the smaller trees are relatively easy to uproot. This should stop regrowth but may cause uneven ground with the trees growing 2' apart for almost an acre.

Might have to hire a rotavator to even out the ground, maybe stabilise the fight against the brambles for a while.

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