Lime Tree Conservation

September 11, 2017

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There are over 300 trees in the Cathedral grounds, some of our favourite and long standing residents are the avenue of Lime trees in the Outer Close. However, in recent years they have not been sustaining healthy growth and in order to save them we need to intervene.

Saving the Lime Trees
The Red-twigged Lime trees planted in the Outer Close are a deciduous tree native to much of Europe. It is not however related to the Lime fruit tree, a citrus species that we may associate it with.
Lime trees are quite often planted as an ornamental tree in parks and cities across the UK. Its wood is mostly only good for carving or fire wood and the flowers on some Lime species have been known to be used for medicinal purposes.
The Lime trees in the Outer Close avenue have been a well-known feature of the Cathedral and its grounds for hundreds of years. We have enjoyed hearing stories and fond memories from locals and visitors. We want to preserve these trees for many more years to come, which is why we need to conserve and protect their future in a responsible manner.
The Friends’ of Winchester Cathedral are kindly supporting us for this vital arboriculture work. Chairman of The Friends’, Bruce Parker says “Nobody likes having to cut down trees. In this particular case, though, it’s simply in the interests of preserving this wonderful avenue for generations to come. The Cathedral Friends are delighted to be able to help with this project.”

The History of the Winchester Cathedral Avenue Lime Trees
The original, Common, Lime trees (Tilia x europaea) were estimated to be planted around the Mid 18th Century. They were managed in a way called pollarding which aims to encourage new growth at the top of the tree to create more of a canopy of greenery. Due to this method the trees suffered extensive decay and structural defects.
In 1985 the trees were removed for the visiting public’s safety and replanted later that year with Red-twigged Lime trees. However, it was discovered later that in fact these trees were planted much too close together.
Following years of arboriculture assessment and monitoring it was recommended by Winchester City Council (LPA) and an independent arboricultural consultant to remove every other tree in the avenue to help the remaining trees not only to survive but to thrive. The works will be carried out by Wessex Tree Surgeons who also oversaw the replacement of the previous Lime Avenue in the eighties

The Importance of Tree Conservation
Tree avenues are a traditional and popular planting style, especially in the landscapes surrounding landmarks. Our avenue has many roles to play, it provides shelter for visitors and local residents, the trees act as ecological habitats for many creatures and other varieties of plants and organisms, it also acts as a visual line towards the Cathedral aiming to welcome visitors and worshipers to the Cathedral.
Although some avenues may appear to be in good health, they can suffer from disease, dieback or structural deformities and if left unmanaged will disintegrate progressively and will eventually be lost. In Winchester Cathedral’s case the trees were planted too close together. This often occurs with the desire to provide more visual impact during their early growing phase and subsequently is advised that trees are thinned and/or removed in some cases later on.

“Lime Avenue is so overgrown now that we have to do something to rescue the trees or we may lose them all. They are now so close together that every tree is poorly. Removing alternate trees will allow those remaining some of the space, light, water and nutrients that they require to repair and regrow, giving the Cathedral a healthy and long term avenue” – Emma Sharpe, Head Gardener at Winchester Cathedral

Snellgrove, G. (2008). ‘Arboriculture Assessment Report of Lime Avenue at Winchester Cathedral Precinct’ pg 2-5
Ryan, J & Patch, D. ‘Management of Avenue Trees’. Trees in Focus: Arboriculture Advisory and Information Service. pg 1-2
Sharpe, E (2017)