The pine tree by the churchyard wall has leaned as long as I can remember. Opening the shutters after a stormy night we always checked to see that it was still there. Its nearest neighbour was a Wellingtonia, planted as a memorial tree when the hall was a hospice thirty years ago. If the pine tree fell, it would crush two of its neighbours, and maybe damage the church wall as well.
In late January the gap between the two trees appeared to have reduced, and we called in Eden Tree Care, our local tree surgeons. They agreed the tree had become dangerous and fixed a date at the end of the month to take it down. But a week later the gap had closed further, and we advanced the falling to 16th February. Starting from the top, by three o’clock, the tree was down.
It was a big tree, eighty six feet tall and three feet in diameter at the base. Counting the annual rings, it was planted some hundred and thirty years ago, during the time of the tenth earl, the one who spent all the money. And, like the Tower of Pisa, it leaned from an early stage, as witnesses by the core being so far off centre.
Jacqueline mourns the loss of any tree; I am more sanguine. It is not, as she suggests, because we use the timber in our sawmill, but because I recognise the cycle of tree life, and know that I have planted many more trees in the last sixty years than will ever come down in my lifetime.