(July 2005) Ref: Article “Save our Trees” by Suzy Straw

(June 2005 edition of the Sibford Scene)

I read with some dismay Suzy Straw’s article entitled “Save our Trees.” Her article appears to be a thinly veiled criticism of the fact that the Friends School at Sibford Ferris had to fell some trees recently. As an old scholar and former member of staff, I feel her article requires a factual response.

I fully support every attempt to save mature trees, but I have to say that in general terms, tree husbandry in the general Sibford area has been very positive, and from my schoolboy days, I can still pinpoint trees that have survived, that I used to climb back in the early 1950s. The School itself has an excellent record of looking after its mature trees, which didn’t just happen.

When the Hill complex was opened in 1930, it was a bare windswept place. The then headmaster’s wife, Jessie Johnstone, carried out most of the planning and planting of the now mature trees which adorn the place. The meticulous care of the School Campus has continued ever since, and its beauty and wellbeing is a credit to the current groundstaff as the inheritors.

It is also a fact that there have probably been less than twenty trees that have had to be felled in the last twenty years. I myself can share some satisfaction to note that in the time I worked there as Estate Manager, I was involved with planting over 500 hundred trees which have matured and are there for all to see. In the mid eighties the School also planted a large conservation area at the back of the Manor House, which covered a derelict landfill site. It is now an area of great beauty. In recent years, further extensive tree planting as taken place to enhance the new buildings. I also know that all the developments that have taken place have been carried out with great care to avoid destroying the environment. It is also School policy to plant a tree for every child who enters the School.

The felled trees in question were done out of necessity. One of the Beeches had fallen over in a storm, and the mature tree next to it had to be felled, along with some smaller species because they were diseased. The School uses the expertise of one of the foremost authorities on trees in the Country, who I introduced to Sibford. Trees do have their ‘sell-by date’ like any other living organism on our planet.

Incidentally, I think I am correct in mentioning that the only surviving Elm in the area is the one at the Elm crossroads, which was planted in 1982 when the original 400 year Elm tree succumbed to Dutch Elm disease. It is of course, in the Elm garden, created by Old Scholars of Sibford School.

Mike Finch