Project: Swiss Garden Restoration Project, Biggleswade
Client: The Shuttleworth Trust
Wilby Tree were appointed to undertake in excess of £300,000 of arboricultural operations in an 1830’s Regency Picturesque Style Swiss Garden located in Old Warden, Bedfordshire. The work formed part of a £2.8m Heritage Lottery Fund restoration project, restoring the garden to its 19th century appearance.
First built by Lord Ongley in the 1830’s, the estate was bought in 1870 by industrialist Joseph Shuttleworth who introduced Victorian “improvements” to the existing layout. Within the garden are 13 listed structures, ornaments and ironwork along with one of the finest collections of “Pulhamite”, a 19th Century anthropic rock material invented by James Pulhamite. For much of the mid-20th Century the garden was left unmanaged before a part restoration was undertaken in the 1970’s. The current project has been the largest change in the garden for over 100 years.
The project involved a wide range of arboricultural operations including; the removal of over 150 Yew trees, felling of self-set specimens along with mature trees which were becoming dangerous. A large number of trees had deadwood removed or branches reduced to clear historic buildings.
Wilby Tree completed all of the tree work in three phases over an 18 month period. The work was successfully completed within agreed timescales with no damage to the listed structures.
The Swiss Garden is an incredibly compact site, being only 10 acres in size and featuring a large number of listed buildings, ornaments, iron work, ponds and narrow footpaths within a manmade undulating landscape. Working in such a confined space presented many challenges.
Change of work specification: The original tree work specification was created in partnership between the Project Arboriculturalist’s and Landscape Architects. Due to a change in Project Landscape Architects between the design and implementation phases, the work specification changed during the first phase of tree work. This presented a huge logistical challenge in undertaking work in a cost effective and logical order.
Site Access: Entry points to the garden were narrow and widening of the gates was not allowed. This heavily restricted access into the garden and the vehicles we could use. Furthermore, because of the large volume of machinery and materials to be manoeuvred around the site it was necessary to install over 1000m of temporary road surface in order to prevent damage to the historic footpaths and lawns. Entry to the garden was further complicated with narrow gateways in the boundary fencing. The gateways were not allowed to be widened due to the historic nature of the fencing. A weight limit of 20t was imposed. As such smaller vehicles and plant had to be utilised.
In order to protect the footpaths and lawns around the garden Wilby Tree laid over 1000m of temporary road surface. A plan was produced which allowed access to all sections of the garden. This was designed to create minimal disturbance to the grounds while allowing comprehensive access. Initially, temporary surfacing was installed throughout the entire garden in order to allow continuous workflow depending on work type and weather conditions. Once a section was complete the temporary surface was removed in order to control costs.
All arisings had to be taken to a neighbouring spinney. In total over 600 tonnes of timer and 800 cubic meters of woodchip were removed from the garden. In order to prevent damage to the access track from continuous movement an aluminium surface was laid in order to provide improved protection.
A large number of Yew trees which overhung the Grotto had to be removed with care to ensure the fragile glass in the Grotto roof was not damaged. Utilising a MEWP, a climber cut the branches in manageable sections, passed them to a colleague in the MEWP who was able to lower the branches safely to the ground. This method ensured all glass panes remained intact.
Bats: A comprehensive survey of all the trees with a work specification was undertaken by the Project Ecologists in order to identify trees featuring Bat habitation potential. Wilby Tree provided assistance in the individual survey of the trees, utilising MEWP’s, climbing arborists and our Bat Specialist to inspect cracks, splits and cavities using a borascope. Where there was potential for Bats trees were dismantled using a soft felling method to enable further inspection once the relevant sections were on the ground. As part of the survey we found an unknown roost featuring 5 Barbastelle Bats. The site is known for a number of species of Bats but this species was previously unrecorded on the garden.
Removal of Yews: Over 150 Yew trees had to be removed. Originally these would have been regularly trimmed to 2m in height. After years of neglect the trees had towered to over 15m in height, suppressing the shrub beds beneath resulting in large areas of bare earth. Many of these trees overhung listed structures. Utilising MEWP’s in conjunction with climbing arborists branches overhanging buildings were carefully cut and lowered to the ground.
Removal of Cedar over Indian Kiosk & Rose Arches: This was a 35m tall mature Cedar of Lebanon located on an unstable embankment. The tree featured a lean into the garden and evidence of fibre bucking at the base on the leeward side of the stem. The tree overhung an original 1830’s Indian Kiosk and Rose Arch. First the tree was reduced down to two scaffold limbs via climbing arborists before utilising a 30m MEWP and a 100t crane to remove the stems in large sections. The tree was successfully removed without damage to the historic features.
“Wilby Tree Surgeons Ltd are running a very professional tree surgery business with a willingness and desire to do the very best in terms of arboricultural practices, legislative and industry good practice requirements. On site work practices and paperwork have been maintained to a very high standard.”
Chris Cooper-Abbs – Arboricultural Association Approved Contractor Scheme Assessor
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