The Great Storm of October 1987

“I was there”, to quote the comedian Max Boyce. I was awakened early on 16 October 1987 by the stormy weather overnight. I was living in the Flat above the Estate Office at Hillbutts and emerged after daylight to scenes of quiet devastation. Quiet, because firstly the wind had literally vanished but more so because there was no traffic noise. It soon became apparent that was due to the road being blocked by fallen trees, in so many places. Later that morning I was to wander through the shattered stems of the ancient beech pollards, root plates upstanding, the avenue a toothy grimace with gaps created by the wind that had passed through, swerving back and forth, missing some trees, felling others at a whim.

It became my job to plan for the replacement avenue and after Martin Papworth’s excavations, we were allowed to plant out the 731 beech whips (less a few for the barrows) so as to create a parallel line of trees on the outside of the 2 original lines. We had considered felling alternate trees in the avenue to insert a new tree in the line, between the veterans but that wasn’t conscienable. Even less so felling the whole lot and starting again! I did wonder if attempting to re-pollard each tree could have worked but greater minds said they would not sprout again due to their age and condition.

There was no talk then of the effects of climate change so replacing beech with beech was the only consideration. Climate adaptation was not a factor. The trees appear to have grown well in the 31 growing seasons since, some failed and were replaced but maybe the writing is on the wall?

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