Not the best way to start 2014 (sniff)

I suppose something had to happen. We’ve had the most terrible weather, with very high winds – gusts of 109 and 102mph recorded at Aberdaron just across the bay – plus lots of rain and incursions of the sea. Happily I’m on the 100m contour so the latter wasn’t so much of a problem here, but my ancient rowan tree eventually gave up the fight against the first two.

rowan 1

Yesterday P was walking round the corner of the house, in yet another 70mph gale, when he noticed the whole rowan blowing in the wind. Despite being able to see the trunk quite clearly from inside (hello rowan), I’d not spotted what was going on. Blowing lightly in the breeze is not something the tree normally does, being taller than the house…

The trunk was shifting by centimetres each time, and stones were becoming dislodged from the wall above which it sits. P rushed off to get his chainsaw, I made an emergency call to another friend (this was definitely a two-man job, if only to control the inner 8-year-old that seems to pop into existence in trees), and then kept my fingers crossed that nothing would happen before they both arrived. Not only is the tree taller than the house, it’s also very close, and I could see an unfortunate tree-through-roof-and-onto-kitchen-table scenario playing out.

Happily, it didn’t. Unhappily I’ve lost my rowan.

rowan downing

The gusts were only about 60mph at this point, by the way; I delivered my usual absolutely no liability whatsoever speech and went to make tea. I then reappeared, in my by now traditional role as Chief Dragger of Brash to the Bonfire Heap, and started dealing with the debris. The weather deteriorated even further, so as soon as the tree was safe we retreated to the kitchen to polish off the Christmas cake.

The unsafe stones have been removed from the wall, the top garden is covered in branches, the trunk is in two sections and I feel really, really exposed.

no rowan

And I don’t like living without a rowan by the house either, which my mother would have undoubtedly filed in her ‘Celtic bollocks’ category of statement (though she never interfered with her own rowans – note the plural – or her father’s, despite annual chuntering about berries dropping). There are all sorts of superstitions about cutting them down, anyway, though apparently it’s all right if you have no choice – we really didn’t – and I will be planting another, just further away.

My house is, however, still well ‘protected’; there are three ashes, a small holly and there’s iron all over the place – horseshoes above doors and even built into the garden walls along with old nails. This is undoubtedly because the field diagonally opposite me is supposed to be one where the Tylwyth Teg, aka the Fair Folk, dance, or did until they built affordable housing on it. Someone I know swears he saw one, sitting on the field gate, when he was about 7 (so it probably wasn’t the Sixteen Pints of Guinness Fairy). More realistically it’s probably an archaeological site: legends of that nature combined with a name suggestive of something built (‘red castle’), and nine times out of ten you’ve got archaeological remains. But I’m not cutting down the holly or removing the iron just yet… and I still have my guardian cement budgie, sitting on its trunk:

cement budgie

When I went back through all my photos trying to find pictures of the rowan in its splendour, I was shocked at how few I have. This is possibly because it’s – sorry, it was – so close to the house, but it often seems to spring up in the background or framing a view. So here, in honour of my late lamented rowan, is a gallery of its glory (just click on an image for a slideshow). Sniffle.

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22 thoughts on “Not the best way to start 2014 (sniff)

  1. VP

    Golly – your garden is going to look very different the next time I visit.

    The ‘ash tree that came for Christmas’, which just missed our house by a hair’s breadth has been removed and is now back on the other side of the fence offering a home for wildlife.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      It certainly is. Looking back over the old pics made me realise how much lighter and more open it feels since the cedar came down – now it’s amazingly open, and I don’t like it. I suppose I’ll get used to it, but it will have to be addressed!

      You were soooo lucky with that ash!

      Reply
      1. VP

        We were! We’ve had a sunny day today and I was blinded by the sunshine coming through the window. We have a kitchen full of light, but the ash must have been strategically placed so the low rays weren’t a problem in winter!

        Reply
        1. kate Post author

          Hah – an unexpected benefit!
          I’m not sure if I’m imagining it, but the dining area / kitchen extension already seems lighter here, and only the trunk was blocking the light. Imagination, probably…

  2. Pauline

    So sorry to hear about your poor Rowan, such a wrench when a tree has to come down, you were so lucky to be able to deal with it yourselves. We luckily, didn’t lose any more trees in the recent storms, can’t afford to lose to many more or we won’t have a woodland left! Hope you’re keeping warm and staying safe!

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      It is such a shame…. you’re right about lucky, though we didn’t have much choice; I think it would have come down very soon given the winds and the way it was moving. I now have the most immense bonfire heap, and quite a lot of potential firewood, but I’d rather have my rowan…

      Good luck to all your trees – I am fed up with this weather – and I hope they and you keep safe in the next lot (due Friday, allegedly).

      Reply
  3. The Editors of Garden Variety

    I was sorry to hear about the loss of your beloved tree. I truly hope the new year will be more positive for you.

    Reply
  4. Anna

    Oh you will miss that glorious tree Kate 😦 Hope that it’s replacement grows so well. Must be something about early January – a storm did serious damage to an old willow just outside our garden boundary but very near the house in January 2012. Luckily it survived emergency surgery although no longer creaks in the wind.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      I think it’s down to the succession of gales we’ve been having, one after another and just too much in total. Looking at the forecast for the next couple of weeks, I think I’m relieved. It could have done so much damage – but that doesn’t stop me missing it. ‘Your’ willow sounds much better post surgery!

      Reply
  5. Cathy

    Oh Kate – what a tragedy to lose the rowan, although of course the foresight to realise what was happening and deal with it before it became a bigger tragedy will have been such a relief, as the potential damage doesn’t bear thinking about. It will indeed be odd acclimatising yourselves to the house and garden without it as you come to a decision on a new rowan. Certainly pays to keep the Fair Folk happy, I think – or are the holly, ash and horseshoes to protect you FROM them?

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      It’s very strange indeed… especially as the weather has been – er, let’s settle for ‘unattractive’, just making it gloomier. Definitely strengthened my resolve to get another, Fair Folk or no Fair Folk. The wind in the top garden is much worse, or maybe that’s my imagination; I can’t think that a rowan out-of-leaf would have made such a difference. Odd.

      Reply
    1. kate Post author

      Yes, I suppose I got off relatively lightly, and the woodpile looks good. I’ve just been told that rowan wood was used in spinning wheels and, given that I’m a spinner, am looking at it rather differently. But I bet it goes on the stove nonetheless!

      Reply
  6. Dobby

    And there was me hoping that next doors would come down to give me more evening light! It might have crushed a couple oof plants and a fence on the way down, but it would have been worth it.
    Chopping up you new firewood will keep you warm.

    Reply
  7. croftgarden

    A disaster to loose a favourite old tree, especially a guardian rowan. However, pleased to hear you’ve come out of the tempest relatively unscathed.
    Do you sell tickets for your tree surgery events?

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      It is, but I’m just beginning to see an upside in the form of a tamarisk, ramosissmia rubra I think, near where the rowan was, plus another rowan. I’ve been up to the very good garden centre and had a long talk – tree delivery in Feb, so waiting until then. But there’s definitely got to be a rowan replanting!

      Re Tree Surgery Expo, am thinking of calling the air amblulance in advance next time, possibly local press. Neighbours already find it entertaining.

      Reply
  8. Chloris

    It’s always sad to lose a tree but it is a great chance to grow something else. We seem to be having one storm after another and I keep wondering what is going to go next. My greengage is the latest tree in my garden to cause concern. But what can you do but be glad of the firewood and plant something else?

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      That’s a reassuringly philosophical attitude, which I’ll try and adopt! I do agree, but the problem with losing mature trees is that it can change the whole character of the garden… mine is now exposed to the brunt of the western gales and it’s having all sorts of surprising effects. I’ve just been watching the rose hedge by the kitchen, in what used to be complete shelter behind the house, lashing about. The rowan must have broken the strength of the wind. Still, never mind, I know what I’m using – Tamarix ramosissima rubra and another rowan, not so close to a wall!

      Reply

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