Recently, Hampshire County Council severely cut back two large, mature weeping willow trees on Winchester Road next to the allotments.
This prompted a letter to the editor (HERE) and a query to Hampshire County Council by this website, as HCC are the ones responsible for the trees.
Sarah Kiss, arboricultural assistant in Hampshire County Highways, explained their reasons for these works:
“We did commission the works to the two willows by the allotments for two key reasons:
1. The willows have been previously pollarded or reduced: this is a recognised management technique and once started, trees need to be cyclically re-pollarded as the attachments are often less strong. With willow this is commonly done and they generally respond well – we should see the start of regrowth this year and more vigorous growth over the next couple. This stops the cut points becoming overloaded which can promote failure.
2. The recent civil engineering works around the base will have caused some disruption to the rooting area of the trees: as the repollarding was due anyway and will reduce the demand the tree is making on the root system (less leaf area means less water demand) this will in turn reduce any stress the tree might undergo as a result of temporary root compromise.
Pollarding does look a bit brutal when first done, but trees can often live longer than unmanaged trees as they tend to experience fewer large limb failures leading to pathways for disease to enter.
I can confirm that we do not generally start new pollarding regimes unless other factors demand it. The willows have been managed this way in the past and the works made it sensible to carry out a repollard at this time.
Some species respond better than others to pollarding (it is not the same as topping which is usually a height reduction technique that we never carry out, as it is generally injurious to trees and leads to more problems). Willow and plane trees in particular respond well.
We have no intention to pollard trees that have not been pollarded in the past: I haven’t inspected the others willows [next to the Millennium Meadow, along Winchester Road] so can’t comment on their previous management at this time, but please be assured that we only ever carry out works for safety reasons to enable the retention of trees – we never prune for size/shade or aesthetic reasons.
Our general mantra is leave it alone if we possibly can – unnecessary management is a waste of resources and often causes shortening of a tree’s lifespan.”