King & Son Tree Surgery



Pollarding is a technique used to keep a tree or number of trees as small as possible by removing all the branches leaving some of the lower branches. This process gets used mainly to keep a tree at a manageable size to maximize light and to keep it practical if in a contained area, for example a tree lined street often favor pollarding.


Pollarding is a technique originally used to help farmers and land owners provide food for their animals, firewood and generally gave them a renewable material source for things like fencing etc. 


Below is information from the forestry commission about the history of pollarding:


POLLARDING In the woodlands, wood was harvested and renewed by lopping trees above the reach of the animals with the leaves and branches being used as fodder and fuel. This was widely practiced throughout the New Forest until the end of the 17th century.


The top would be cut off a young tree often at a height convenient to a man standing on be the back of a wagon. New branches would be allowed to grow from around the cut surface, to be cut again after a number of years depending on what the wood was to be used for. In the New Forest, the branches would often have been left on the ground for the deer and commoners’ animals to feed on - then the wood would be used for firewood.


Pollarding was done in a similar way to coppicing except that the branches were cut higher up so that the deer, ponies and cattle could not reach the new growth. Pollarding resets the biological time clock of trees, so trees managed in this way could live for a very long time - often far longer than non-pollarded trees. The practice of pollarding however stopped the trees growing tall and straight and were therefore unable to provide good timber for shipbuilding. Such timber was required in large quantities until the 19th century. In 1698 an act of Parliament made it illegal to start pollarding any more oak trees within the New Forest, meaning that any of the pollard oaks and beech seen within the Forest today must have been first pollarded before this date and be over 300 years old. 


Those that had been pollarded continued to be so up until the Deer Removal Act of 1851 when it was no longer necessary to provide winter fodder for the deer, ponies and cattle. Holly pollarding is still being carried out in the Forest each winter to provide additional food for ponies. The process also benefits some species of lichen as it allows light into the trunks of oak and beech, therefore creating the best conditions for lichens. The pollarding of some young oak and beech trees may be started again soon in certain areas of the New Forest to help maintain the aesthetic value of the woods. 


Reference: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/AncientOrnamentalwoodland.pdf/$file/AncientOrnamentalwoodland.pdf


Pollarding should only be carried out on young mature trees as they have enough energy to regenerate their canopies after such a big reduction. If you pollard older mature trees then you will be creating a hazard causing stressed growth under the cuts which will have weak attachment points potentially causing this growth to fail and fall out later on in life. Older trees might not have the energy to recover from such a severe cutting back which would then lead to their death. This process is called topping and should not be practiced. As a general guide you can pollard young mature trees with a stem diameter of between 50mm-200mm at heights of between 2-3m. 

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