Russian Elm Lives On in Regents Park

Installing a large Russian Elm tree trunk as a natural play feature in Regents Park playground.

We do not just cut trees for our clients, we also provide solutions to exceptional and unusual problems involving trees.

In the winter of 2013 a mature Russian Elm (Zelkova carpinifolia), in Queen Marys Gardens, Regents Park, failed at the root plate and fell over.

Our clients and owners of the tree, The Royal Parks, commissioned us to remove the tree, however an opportunity arose to re-use the tree as a climbing frame in a newly created playground within the park. Following detailed discussions with our clients, the landscape architect and playground designer, it became apparent that we would need to more the tree in as large sections as possible.

As part of the work planning, we also had to organise road closures and heavy lifting equipment to re-locate the tree.  We successfully lifted the tree and moved it to the new playground, where we used the crane again to rotate the stem until it was as the playground designer wanted.

We hope that it will provide children with many years of happy adventures as they climb all over, and may inspire a few to work with trees when they grow up.

Following the sad loss of such a large tree, our clients Royal Parks, were keen to find a use for the stem of the tree. We meant with them and several other stakeholders including the landscape and playground designers, members of the Arboricultural team to ascertain if it would be possible to re-locate the tree.

Due to its size, it quickly became apparent, that whilst this would be possible we would need to bring together some very specialist equipment. Fortunately, due to our extensive experience of using large cranes to facilitate pruning and removal of trees in hard to access areas we already had the contacts to enable this work.

The approach we selected to meet this challenge was to employ a mobile crane to lift the tree out in two sections and on to our 18t Flat Bed HGV to facilitate transporting to the playground for installation.

As part of using a crane, we must assess the overall weight of the tree stem and the distance from the stem to the crane. From this information, together with other site condition assessments, we specified the use of a 130t crane with 30t counterweights and solid steel ground protection.

With the crane and equipment selected for the lift, the next aspect of planning was to put in place a Traffic Management Plan to allow for the siting of the crane on the highway and the redirecting of pedestrians around the site. This was undertaken through collaboration between ourselves, The Royal Parks and our Traffic management supplier. The result was a road closure with diversion for vehicles and safe walkways around the site for pedestrians that was satisfactory to all stakeholders.

With our team of experienced arborists, we started to prepare the site. We had to remove some of the remaining branches and sever the stem from the root plate. The chains and rigging used for the lift was then attached to the stem and it was cut to enable the first lift to take place. With all members of the public excluded from the area and all staff at a safe distance, our team leader co-ordinated with the crane driver over walky-talkys to start the lift. The crane lifted the stem over the pathways and ornate fencing, lowering the wood onto the back of our 18t flat bed lorry. We had to carry out two lifts in order to remove the stem as it was too large to move in one piece.

We then de-rigged the crane and moved all our equipment to the play area, where we had to use Durabase, a high density plastic modular ground protection system, to provide us with a stable work area to unload the tree stem. The crane was set up again, and the second part of the operation began as we lifted the stem into the play area.

Once the tree stem had been lowered in place, we then used the crane to rotate the stem until it was in a stable position to the liking of the playground designer. Finally, we removed any split branches or sharp edges from broken branches.

The tree stem now provides an exciting and novel play structure for children to enjoy for many years to come.

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