Share of light Posted on January 21, 2014

There’s a limit to what the council will let you do to your trees in a leafy borough like this one. It has absolute power over the woody leafage. Not the power to plant a tree in your garden, of course, but the power to stop you disposing of it as you see fit. I am stuck, then, with a disproportionate amount of sycamore. I have reservations? A lack of proper respect? My problem: I bought the tree with the house.

In this privileged area, though, even the tree surgeons are a cut above the norms. I googled “Tree surgeons, Kensington” and stopped at the second name. Not a name to forget easily: Fergus Kinmonth – and one I recognised as a member of the International Dendrology Society and a visitor to our Essex garden. How many dendrologists climb trees with chainsaws? Probably not enough.

Fergus came round and we talked about the two trees that last summer kept the sun from touching our garden, the sycamore and the neighbour’s walnut. I know they get more than their share of publicity in this diary. But then they take more than their share of a diarist’s light.

Tooth-sucking from both of us. “They’ll let you take off the same as last time”, said Fergus. “That’s just the tips,” said I. “Precisely. This is a conservation area.” “So what is it they’re conserving?” “People don’t like it when the greenery they see from their windows is removed.”

I’m not keen, either, I admit. But here we have the politician’s dilemma. “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change” is not a message that public servants want to hear. So no radical tree surgery; just a snip here and there while the problem grows. Fergus and his team came and snipped – very handsomely and tidily, I must say. Not a twig is left: just a massive black tree-skeleton in the sky, ready to do the same again, plus a little bit – to need painful surgery again in a year or two.

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