MOVING a tree can be a challenge in itself, but what about shifting a small forest?

That’s what a team from Flagship Services – the repairs and maintenance arm of housing provider Flagship Group – set out to do when called upon to clear a site at Vinces Road in Diss, where 35 affordable homes are due to be built.

Wanting to find a way to save the trees growing there, Flagship’s arboriculture services manager Dan Curtis led a pioneering project to transplant 39 English oaks, nine hawthorns and one field maple to another site 20 miles away.

Dan said: “At first it seemed like a bit of a mad idea. But the trees had to be removed from the site one way or another, so it made sense to have a go at it.”

The week-long operation saw the trees lifted out of the ground using a specialised ‘tree spade’ before they were loaded onto a lorry for the journey to woodland next to Coppice House in Greenwood Court, Bury St Edmunds – the headquarters of Flagship’s housing association subsidiary, Samphire Homes.

The woodland, called Greens Wood, is subject to a blanket Tree Preservation Order, and Dan said the ‘newcomers’ should have every chance of success.

He said: “We don’t expect all of the trees to thrive in their new location, but it has still been worth attempting for the environmental gains we are going to make.

Forestry Journal:
“It bodes well that we already have quite a few mature oaks on the site, which means the mycorrhizal fungus that these trees need to function is there too.

“The way we look after them over the next couple of years is going to be the key to it.”

The oaks are all 10 ft–23 ft (3 m–7 m) tall and are 10–15 years old. Dan said the value of the trees if bought from a nursery was over £60,000, but the operation to move them cost around £8,500. 

He said he had never heard of another project like this, but, if successful, it could become a model for future tree transfers.