IT’s what anyone would call a fine stack of timber. Mind you, it was better before last week’s storm, which blew, but only for a short while. This was enough to fell another of my veteran apple trees, which are full of rot and covered with mistletoe, which needed most of yesterday with the saw to clear up.

No, the oak was an altogether different proposition. It was, I reckon, around 200 years old, and just why such a very fine specimen, with a clear, clean bole rising some 20 metres from the open forest floor and in close canopy, should succumb to such a relatively small climatic incident is something of a mystery.

The dogs and I explored the exposed root system. Free-draining Old Red Sandstone geology. And although our collective powers of detection were deployed, there was nothing to suggest that such an impressive specimen could be laid low in such a relatively sheltered position by such a piffling storm.

READ MORE: Forester's diary: Much ado about mensuration

There could be only two explanations. Although the root system looked sound, unseen and invidious fungi were the prime suspect. Then there was the wind. It used to be conventional wisdom, when we became obsessed with hazard factors applied to Sitka plantations on deep ill-drained peat, to accept that whatever ground prep, whatever thinning regime, there was always a storm which might only occur every hundred years, but which would blow down your wood. But spruce on furrows are a whole world away from our oak, a specimen tree on red, sandy soil. So after picking around the roots we came to our diagnosis. Not fungi alone, or the weather alone, but a combination of the two.

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My younger dog clearly thought that a big tree on its beam ends was a much more exciting playground than an upright tree, which had only one function for a young and inquisitive bearded collie. He jumped up onto the trunk and trotted happily into the fallen crown. I thought back to my Woodland Heritage timber buyer’s course at Whitney and scanned the trunk for any evidence of hidden defects which could give a clue to the oak’s vulnerability, but I could find none.

I looked around. This was a quality stand. The fallen tree was just one of a number of fine specimens – but look! Just a short distance away was a fallen sweet chestnut, doubtless a victim of the same site factors which had felled my oak, but clearly some time earlier. This had also been a super tree, but while the spiral pattern on the trunk was still clearly visible, the tree itself had decayed into the forest floor. What a waste!

And indeed, what a waste of very fine oak timber. Because of its sheer bulk, size, weight and its position in the heart of the forest, recovery, even with the mightiest machinery, was more or less impossible. I say ‘more or less’ as it is entirely possible for one of you machinery experts to scoff at my ignorance of what is now possible.

READ MORE: Forester's diary: Getting to the point

“A big oak? On a bank in the heart of the woods? No problemo. We’ll have it back in the mill in no time!” I do hope so.

Wind is often the unsung villain of forest management. Fires in the woods make good, dramatic footage. And if some Oz houses or Californian limos get burnt, or even (perish the thought) someone gets killed, then it’s world news, especially in these climate-threatening days. But have you ever seen images of storm damage, unless it’s an individual episode which has stopped trains running, on the six o’clock news?

It’s easy to say that we are going to have to get used to extreme climatic events as we totter towards climate change. Are big, old, wonderful trees another accident just waiting to happen?

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