It has rained hard since noon, and is still raining when I arrive. We have had so much rain this month that it must be a record breaker for October. The pond is full and so are our barrels. In spite of the rain, the roof is being put on the back stage. When completed, the area will house plants intended for sale.
The saga of the yew continues. The tree is on the building site next to us and last week, we were told by a senior site manager that the tree is due to be cut down. Since then, the bush telegraph has been beating. Councillors have been alerted, the planning office contacted as has the Chair of Gateway Housing Association, the owner of the site. Last Friday, the lower branches were pruned. This, we were told, was to stop the branches being broken off by lorries going in and out, as the tree is now adjacent to a new site entrance.
The tree is behind a fence with a sign on it saying it is a protected tree, though this doesn’t mean much, as soundings from Hill, the developers and the planning office, say it may be no longer. And will be coming down. They say there will be new plantings in its place. Gateway have arranged a public meeting: Friday 8 November, 4:30pm at Durning Hall. Either way, the signs are not good for the yew, which is possibly 130 years old.
Trees take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Some of this becomes energy for plant processes such as maintaining cells, new growth above and below ground, flowers and seeds. And some of the carbon dioxide becomes wood. Wood is the skeleton of the tree, making it possible for it to grow upwards. The wood of the trunk dies in a few years as it is overgrown with new layers. In fact, 80% of a mature tree is dead.
If the tree is cut down, in one way or another, the carbon stored as wood returns to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. If it is burnt, this happens straight away. This is why wood burning stoves are only good, in terms of climate change, if they are burning new wood. If they are burning old then, in this case, they would be putting 130 year old carbon back into the atmosphere. Not at all desirable. If the wood is made into furniture, then the carbon is retained for the life of the furniture. If it is made into wood chip, then it breaks down fairly rapidly, as the process of chipping has increased the surface area enormously, causing decay in just a few years.
If the yew is allowed to grow, it could have hundreds of years of life ahead of it, increasing the carbon it stores (as wood) year by year. There are a few yews said to be up to 2000 years old, though this is difficult to verify as these trees are hollow, so you can’t count tree rings or even do carbon dating as the oldest parts have decayed.
Trees matter, not just for their aesthetics and shade, but because they take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, which is why we need to plant millions of them if the country is to become carbon neutral. But we are going backwards when we cut down mature trees.