Letter: How dangerous are old trees?

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The Independent Online
Sir: Reading Stephen Goodwin's article on the Lake District National Park's plan to fell the Rusland beeches (7 October) I am driven to wonder how much "expert" opinion is based on scientific analysis, and how much on traditional prejudice against supposedly decaying trees.

The beeches, we are told, are in a "dangerous" condition. Has this danger been quantified? Certainly an old tree might shed a branch, but the statistical chance of it doing so at the very moment someone is passing under the very spot the branch falls must be remote in the extreme. Have the park authorities a mathematical estimate of the chances of it happening?

Is it feared that a whole tree might topple over? Again, even if one did, the chance of it hitting someone as it fell must be very small, especially compared with the many small everyday risks we are all compelled to take.

Old, decaying, trees don't fall over, they just continue decaying away, over decades, to a bare trunk that rots on the spot. Trees that blow over in storms are almost invariably ones that showed no prior signs of age or weakness, as many people in the South-east will recall from the 1986 "hurricane".


Market Rasen, Lincolnshire