As a youngster my favourite climbing tree was an old, leaning Pear tree close to the cottage. The lean made it an easy climb as did the gnarly, spiralled bark. In the Summer I could perch up there immersed in the shiny green leafery and be unseen by passers by. In the Autumn I might sneakily throw the occasional rotting pear at rival ‘gangs’ as they passed by our gate. The old pear tree was a character – way back, someone had lopped the top off and rather than leave the cut exposed to the weather a big, old, metal tin lid had been formed around the severed limb to shed the rain. It didn’t stop the rot but made a lofty seat for small bottoms.

I knew the tree was old, it was clearly visible in a drawing indoors that was dated 1888, obviously the same tree, it was in the right place and exactly the right shape. Whoever planted it had probably taken a wild root-stock and used two different scions for grafting and it was done high up, you could see the graft union at head height. Each Autumn the ground was littered with three different types of pear from that tree, two intended and the third were fruits of the suckers that never gave up. As I grew up the tree diminished, losing branches in each Autumn gale, the best fruiting branches went first and in the end there was a tall stump with just the suckers remaining. A few years ago all it took was a gusty, night storm and in the morning there it was lying sadly on the ground. With hardly any roots left there was little to keep it from falling.

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Old trunk split into chunks

We left the old tree trunk there for several years, it was too big to move and we didn’t have the heart to saw it up. We didn’t want to risk damaging our chainsaw either, that trunk was riddled with wire and nails left by naughty boys who built tree houses and all kinds devices for trapping, alarming and defending their elevated camp. Opening for the NGS has focused us on having a tidy up so yesterday the old carcass had to go. Even with decay and the passage of time the relic was still too big to move without being broken up, so with wedges and sledge hammer we split it into manageable pieces. Each split revealed the ironmongery the old chap had been burdened with, many of the nails were of the ancient kind, square in cross section dating back long before I was of hammer wielding age, some of the guilt was lifted by that discovery.

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Ecological heap – for natural decay

We ended up with a dozen chunks of very rotten Pear wood, rather than burn it we decided to make an ecological heap down in our little Copse so that the final remnants of an old friend could gracefully blend with the soil rather than be consumed by fire. There is a Pear tree sized hole in the garden, now we have the fun of filling it.

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