The tree of life is dead, long live the stump


'Life is but a trifle, and not everyone gets the custard'. Such might have been the words penned by one of England's second rank of poets to describe the scene this weekend as our sycamore finally tasted the sour grapes of the tree doctor's chainsaw. Our neighbour's patience had at last run out, and a few brief but well-chosen words to a passing, and perfectly innocent, Network Rail supervisor finally brought timely action.

The intention had been to use a rail-mounted tree-removing machine to extract the offending flora virtually in one go, but this gargantuan device was apparently needed elsewhere on the day, so the more mundane option of tree surgeon contractors was selected. To those not used to such operations the method of work was a little alarming, involving someone shinning 30ft up the tree, tying off with a rope, tying a selected branch with a second rope held securely via a pulley system and a deadweight (a well-built assistant), and using a chainsaw attached by a third rope to cut through the correct, tied, branch downstream of the second rope, such that it (the branch) swung away from the tied-off person, did not fall on the track (periodically occupied by a Merseyrail service) and could be safely lowered to the ground by said assistant.

However it was clear that those involved knew the ropes, and moreover could count to three without once getting confused as to which rope was which, and which branch should not be sawn through because it was home to the tied end of the first rope instead of the second. In all it took three days, with barely a tea-break and only brief luncheon intervals. So Network Rail got value for whatever sum they paid out, the neighbour got her drains back into her sole possession, and we will get more light and fewer leaves in the garden, despite having no right in our lease to even step out of the back door.

A rare win-win-win situation, except for the tree of course. Knowing sycamores however, a dollop of blue gunge may not be enough to keep the root subdued, and green shoots of recovery will have to be watched for come next spring. And as for dark storm-tossed winter nights, who knows if the moaning of the wind will be real, or the ghost of the tree come back to haunt us....


I will leave as an exercise for the reader the determination of the correct numbering of the ropes in the photo.