Why are you cutting down all the trees?
We are not. About 50 aspens, the tall ones, are being felled. The other types of tree will remain. With the benefit of hindsight, they were the wrong trees in the wrong place, planted too closely.
This caused the trees along the bridle way to grow with weak growth as they searched for light. You may have noticed we have recently experienced two closures of the footpath for emergency tree surgery. The costs for these works have been shared by the Parish Council and CHAFT. Given the proximity to housing, bridle way, foot paths and the children’s play area we felt this was the right decision.
So, have you obtained a felling licence from The Forestry Commission?
Yes, the felling licence was obtained by the Parish Council some time ago. Conditions have been applied to this licence. The contractor must undertake a full risk assessment before starting and comply with the detailed requirements in full. The licence also stipulates the replanting must be complete two years after the felling is completed.
Instead of felling all the aspens could you have thinned them out and pollarded the rest?
This was considered. When aspens are cut back, they produce a lot more suckers. Retaining the aspens, whether thinned or pollarded, would require costly annual maintenance. In practice, the tall aspens on the southern side of the Charney Field and along the bridleway are too old for thinning or pollarding to be safe and effective.
When the trees are being cut down will the bridle path remain open?
Our contractors, Wessex Woodland Management and EJM Tree services will commence felling 28th September with the expectation that the felling will take about two weeks.
Yes, the bridle path will remain open. We have taken advice from Oxfordshire County Council and our contractors Wessex Woodland Management. Banksmen will be on hand to halt path users for a few minutes as and when necessary to ensure public safety.
Wessex Woodland Management will ensure appropriate signage is in place.
Walkers and riders may prefer to access the Charney Field and the bridle path to Stanford in the Vale by the footpath from New Road or the trackway between the Charney Field and the Buckland Road.
What about health and safety issues in general?
On the first morning a Wessex Woodland Management representative will undertake a full risk assessment. The contractor is responsible for complying with all health and safety requirements.
CHAFT has appointed a small team to be the point of contact on all relevant matters, liaise with the contractor as necessary and carry out occasional surveillance checks.
I am concerned about the use of the Charney Field and the children’s play area during the felling process.
You raise a good point. Wessex Woodland Management will conduct a full risk assessment before felling commences.
CHAFT Trustees have agreed that the children’s play area will be closed for the duration of the felling. This will include the whole area between the play area and the bridle path. The area will be clearly cordoned off as closed to public access.
The bridle path and footpath will remain open but will be under the supervision of the banksmen whilst felling takes place.
Can we take some wood for our personal use?
Sorry, no. Through our contractors the wood is going to a unit that converts the wood to pellets for eco-efficient wood burns. The sale of the timber has helped to reduce the cost of the felling.
50 trees are being cut so a lot of wood will be produced. This wood will be stored for a short period on the Cox family land off Buckland road. Our thanks go to the Cox family.
What happens after felling?
The stumps will be ground down and the area cleared. This is the first stage in making ready for the replanting phase.
What is the next stage?
When the aspens are cut, they will produce a lot more suckers, so the next stage is the eradication of these suckers. Aspens are very aggressive in the production of suckers; in the past they have been cut mechanically or dug out by hand but the replanting programme will render this impossible. The plan is for 400 whips to be planted in autumn 2021 and spring 2022, so it is vital that aspen suckers cannot choke out these new trees.
So how are you planning to deal with the suckers?
After much research, including discussion with our contractor, contact with the Vale of the White Horse District Council, the Oxfordshire Playing Field Association and Sylva Consultancy, and a study of relevant legal and health and safety controls, we have concluded that grinding the stumps and careful spraying of the suckers with Round Up by an approved operator is the best approach.
Did you consider other methods for dealing with the suckers?
Yes, there were three possible options:
- Leave the stumps and remove the suckers mechanically or by hand. Whilst this is possible it is highly labour intensive and it would make the replanting programme almost impossible in the time period granted to us in the felling licence from The Forestry Commission.
- Use of Ecoplugs in the stump. This process involves plastic plugs fitted into the stumps, placed 10 to 15 centimetres apart around the circumference of the stump. These plugs are filled with glyphosate, the chemical used in Round Up. These plugs would contain active glyphosate for a long period. This process would halve the natural time for the stump to rot and would slow the production of suckers. Source: www.ecoplug.com Wessex Woodland Management have informed us that, that in their experience, suckers would still grow; these would then need to be sprayed. Our licence to fell the trees means that the stumps would still need to be ground out to allow the replanting process to be completed by June 2022.
- The third option, CHAFTs’ preferred option, will see the stumps ground down and suckers sprayed in spring and late summer 2021. Spraying also uses glyphosate, but this neutralises and becomes inert when it touches the ground.
Can you guarantee that no flora or wildlife will be affected by the spraying or that Charney Wick ditch will not be affected?
The honest answer is that it is impossible to make absolute guarantees.
Our contractors will make a risk assessment of the area before spraying and the Charney Wick ditch will be avoided.
Our contractors will abide by all U.K. and E.U. regulations. Spraying will be undertaken by a certified operative. Please note this is a targeted spray directly onto the suckers rather than an aerial blanket spray. The glyphosate will not be applied during windy conditions or in rain.
The advice from our contractor is that glyphosate is foliar acting. It is sprayed directly onto the leaf area of the suckers and then is translocated by the plant to the root system. Once it comes into contact with the soil it becomes inert and poses no threat to flora and fauna. Although the spraying is closely targeted, there may be some overspray and grass around the base of suckers will be affected.
The surfactants in Round Up may cause gastro-intestinal upset if eaten while wet. They might also cause skin irritation if the product contacts the skin while still wet. Once dry, these surfactants will no longer cause irritation so the critical period is while the chemicals dry off. Wessex Woodland Management will abide by the U.K. and E.U. regulations and restrict access until the spray has dried on the leaves. CHAFT are asking Wessex Woodland Management to cordon off the area for an additional 24 hours after the treatment.
Wasn’t there a case in America where the company that makes Round Up lost because it caused cancer?
This is correct. However, the operative had not been trained properly, didn’t use protective clothing and was not supervised. He used a glyphosate-based weed killer for many years. Our contractors are trained, will wear protective clothing and follow all UK and EU recommended processes. We have been reassured that because glyphosate neutralises when it contacts the ground there is no cancer threat to residents, children, dogs, horses or any other users of the bridle way and woodland area.
Is there a plan for the replanting?
We recognise the loss of some 50 trees will have a significant and immediate impact on our village panorama but this will clear the way for the next phase.
During 2021, as the area is prepared for the planting of 400 whips, the woodland on Charney Field will appear much emptier without the aspens, but this new space will give us the opportunity to create, at the heart of Charney Bassett, a small woodland consisting of a blend of English native trees underplanted with native shrubs. This will, over time, create a biodiverse habitat which will form a backdrop of differing textures and colours to Charney field. The plan will encourage and enrich flora and fauna in the new woodland and it is hoped this will develop Charney Field as a wildlife corridor.
Wessex Woodland Management will be providing whips of native English trees, along with protective stakes and guards, to meet the replanting requirement of the Forestry Commission felling Licence.
Your CHAFT Trustees will be seeking community involvement in the design and future layout of the new woodland. We particularly want to encourage children to help in this planning and development of the area.
A small team of CHAFT trustees and others will implement this replanting plan and will develop a long-term management plan for the woodland as part of the Charney Field.
The expectation is that the planting will take place in the autumn of 2021. This will be determined by the success of eradicating the aspen suckers.