The Mighty Oak of Victoria Square,

News & Tribute

This page has appeared to coincide with the initial announcement about this issue. Some information is missing from it, and it will also be updated as things progress, so please check back regularly for updates.
Updated 24/11/21

This great, English Oak in Victoria Square is estimated to be around 400 years old (predating The Square)... but sadly it has now coming to the end of its life. This page will give the information as to why, and is in tribute for this wonderful tree.
The Sad News

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In 2019, during our initial tree survey (performed by Steve Ambler & Sons*, Tree Specialists), it was noticed that this tree (labelled as no.48 on the survey tree map) was not looking in good health. Further examination found it to be badly diseased [1].

Vale of Glamorgan Council, who own most of the Square and trees within it, commissioned a specialist ultrasonic investigation of the tree, and this established the considerable extent of the decay within the tree.

The tree itself is internally rotting, so has gradually becoming weaker in its structure. It is in danger of being unable to support its own weight.

There are noticeable signs of this degradation visible on the outside, with leaves yellowing (ahead of time), bare branches and exposed wood from beneath its bark. A large fungal growth is also at its base, which does not help.

In view of these findings, a decision has been made by the Vale of Glamorgan Council to reduce the tree down to a 'monolith'. This decision of course is based on considerations for not only the safety of the public, but the heath of the other oaks in The Square.
[1] WebMan note: I am awaiting more information about the type of infection and will update this page as soon as possible.

 
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Attendees of the Tree Talk 30th October under the tree.

The fungus at the base of the tree.

The fungus at the base of the tree in close up.

The Plan

On Tuesday 23rd November, 2021, work will begin, undertaken by Specialist Tree Services on behalf of The Vale of Glamorgan Council (Who 'own' and manage all the public trees in the VoG) to 'dismantle' the tree. The intention is to reduce it down to a 'monolith' around 6m high (similar to others now already in The Square).

This area of The Square will of course be inaccessible to the public, as the tree itself does partially overhang the South Path. Please respect the necessity of the situation, the safety involved and  those performing the task.
We will do our best to keep you informed, with possible live updates via our Facebook Feed (available on the Home Page of this site).

 

Photos of the Dismantling

These pictures were taken on Tuesday 23rd November 2021, showing the Day 1 work by ESA Treecare Ltd*. They returned the following day to complete the task.

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Signs of the internal rotting are evident in some of the logs. These came from the lowest cut sections. Further examination of the sections removed on Day 2 will be done, and any bits found to be infected will be treated with caution. What exactly will happen with them is TBC.

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The Legacy

Obviously we don't want it to be all bad news, so we are looking at ways that not only the remains of the tree can be used, but the removed wood as well. We will work with VoG to find a way to make the wood safe for re-use, and then ways it can be used. We have ideas for putting the timber to good use (possibly not as more log piles) and turn the bark and wood clippings into mulch for the Square (also donate it to other local groups).
Final information on that is not available until we have reached that stage of assessment & decision making.

As for the monolith... well while it will remain a monument and memorial to this once great oak, that dominated the skyline of the South side of The Square, it will also hopefully remain a habitat for some of the creatures of The Square, and may also play host to a bird or bat box (decision pending). Nearby plants such as Ivy will also make use of it as an anchor, so things will live on around it, despite its decay.

In addition to that, opening up the canopy space will allow more light to reach the oak and other saplings that are already growing below, allowing them a better chance to succeed as replacements. While it'll be many years before they are big enough to tower as this one, it does mean there is an equivalent future in that space.

What's more, ourselves, The VoG Council* & The Penarth Tree Forum* like to work on a one-out-one-in (at least) policy, meaning other oak saplings are being propagated that could eventually be planted near to this one if required. All parties involved will of course continue to monitor them (and all other trees in The Square) to ensure they are not succumbing to the same fate.

Further information as and when we are able to supply it. If you have any questions about any of this you can add them to the post announcing this on Facebook, Contact Us via this site, or ask us in person at The Square and we will do our best to answer them.

 

The History

As mentioned, it is estimated that this tree is around 400 years old [1]. For an English Oak that is quite a long life, sitting somewhere above the average lifespan for an oak of this kind grown in the kind of climate we have in Penarth, and conditions of the location (including the very heavy clay soil that retains a lot of water).

Both the recent Tree Talk & Walk by Vaughan Lewis of Ambler Tree Services (30 Oct 21), and the History Talk by Chris Riley (17 Nov 21) actually revealed some interesting information that pertains to this tree.

Before Victoria Square was created, there was a wood sitting partly across the location that is now the north-east side of The Church (where the Church Hall and the houses are now). Most of this was of course removed when these buildings were built, though the trees you can still see there to this day were part of it.

However, that wood was estimated to be only Victorian in age, whereas this tree is thought to be around 2-300 years older than that. A map dated 1868 [2] does show this wood, but also a lone tree just to the south-west corner of it. It has been suggested that this is that oak, and that it was also once perhaps a field boundary marker. 

[1] Suggested by Vaughan Lewis
[2] Picture when available.

While not much is known about the tree between then and now, what is known is that this was the tree that someone (not FoVS - as far as we know), did build a small 'den' against it this year. While this is not one of our projects, it is certainly a demonstration of how else The Community looks to utilise The Square. It will of course have to be removed prior to the work, but we may look to restore it in some fashion afterwards.

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New Oak Saplings already growing in The Square
(likely planted by squirrels)

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FAQs

Who carried out the initial survey in 2019?
This was done by Steve Ambler & Sons Ltdhttps://steveamblertrees.com/*. This was done in collaboration and consultation with The Vale of Glamorgan Council (who own most of The Square and consequently the trees). It was paid for using a £9K grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

How was the internal disease of the tree discovered?
Initial signs of the tree's decline were spotted externally. Because of this, the tree was given an ultrasonic scan, which allowed an internal examination.

What exactly is affecting this tree?

The term Nasal Decay has been used to describe this, though Acute Oak Declineis a more recognisable term. Follow that link to read up about it.

Why this tree?
The actual reason is unknown, so some speculation has to be made, but this tree is estimated to be around 400 years old (which is very old for an oak of this kind), and growing in waterlogged (clay heavy) ground (one of the possible exciters of this). Add to that local pollutants and possible environmental stresses over time, as well as an increase of this type of infection across Great Britain.

Will it affect the oak beside it, and others of The Square?
It is possible that eventually they too might succumb to this (as Nature is inevitable). However most are younger trees, so hopefully have a good few years of resistance in them. The Oak beside it (Tree 47) is estimated to be around 150-200 years old, so could be susceptible. All those involved in the care of The Square's trees will of course continue to monitor it, and the others as we can. Hopefully though we will not have to deal with this issue again for a long time.

Who carried out the dismantling?
ESA Treecare Ltd*. They were contracted by The Vale of Glamorgan Council to do this work, as they own this section of The Square. FoVS are merely bystanders in this decision, though because we exist to help as a means of Caring for The Square in collaboration with them, we were kept informed and consultation.

What will happen to the remains of the tree now?
Well the remaining 'monolith' will be left to stand and decline on its own. We will soon be mounting some more bird and bat boxes on it. Whether we put the 'den' back is yet to be decided. We also have something planned around Christmas time which could involve it.

And the wood cut from it?
Well the smaller branches have already been wood-chipped (as they were not affected by the rot, so this was safe to do). This wood chip will be used in various ways around The Square, as well as by other groups such as our PCS siblings The Penarth Tree Forum & Railway Path Project.

The Logs however we do have some ideas and potential plans for, though we need to assess the viability of them before we can confirm. We'll keep you posted on this.

If you have any further questions, please either ask us via our Facebook Page, Contact Us form or in person and we'll do our best to supply you with answers.
Thank you for supporting this unfortunate, but necessary action.

Useful Links*

Steve Ambler & Sons
ESA Treecare Ltd
Penarth Tree Forum - Website Facebook
https://www.valeofglamorgan.gov.uk/en/living/planning_and_building_control/Planning/Trees-and-Hedges.aspx
https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/tree-pests-and-diseases/key-tree-pests-and-diseases/acute-oak-decline/?gclid=CjwKCAiA4veMBhAMEiwAU4XRrycMt3E7_LFbxt38aQDHXyi_DwGp-WIgVhJSlyeOnOX8q-XcTQzdGxoCDfwQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds