The Prom’s old chest­nuts were fac­ing the chop

Gloucestershire Echo - - NOSTALGIA -

CHEL­TENHAM’S Prom­e­nade could be­come an av­enue of death if its over-ma­ture trees are left as they are.

This was the dra­matic first para­graph of the Glouces­ter­shire Echo’s front page story 41 years ago to­day.

It fol­lowed a re­port car­ried out by Tree Con­ser­va­tion Ltd, a firm of ar­bori­cul­ture con­sul­tants, that had been com­mis­sioned by the bor­ough coun­cil.

The find­ings made grim read­ing. The rec­om­men­da­tion was that seven trees, in­clud­ing four large horse chest­nuts out­side the Mu­nic­i­pal Of­fices, should be felled as a mat­ter of ur­gency.

For many years an iconic fea­ture of Chel­tenham’s premier thor­ough­fare, the chest­nuts were planted in 1818.

Their state of health had been mon­i­tored for some while show­ing the growth rate was in de­cline.

A di­rec­tor of the ar­bo­real spe­cial­ists Mr P G Bid­dle pointed out to mem­bers of the bor­ough coun­cil’s trees sub­com­mit­tee that: “The growth rate is of par­tic­u­lar sig­nif­i­cance for horse chest­nuts, which have a no­to­ri­ous rep­u­ta­tion for un­pre­dictably drop­ping branches.”

He con­tin­ued: “Branch fail­ure is likely to oc­cur at any time, not nec­es­sar­ily dur­ing storm con­di­tions and there is often lit­tle or no ev­i­dence of de­cay or other weak­ness”.

A weighty bough had fallen from one of the chest­nuts just a month or two be­fore, said Mr Bid­dle.

A sug­ges­tion from one of the com­mit­tee mem­bers that ca­bles could be used to se­cure po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous branches was re­jected.

Not only would this be im­prac­ti­cal, said the re­port, it would also mean re­mod­elling the trees, de­stroy­ing their aes­thetic ap­pear­ance.

So what should re­place the chest­nuts?

Not more chest­nuts came the re­ply. A species with a less dense canopy would be bet­ter, such as planes.

Driv­ing home his point, Mr Bid­dle drew at­ten­tion to the bor­ough coun­cil’s le­gal li­a­bil­ity.

“It should be noted that the risks of a fall­ing branch caus­ing an ac­ci­dent ei­ther to a pedes­trian or cars parked or mov­ing be­neath the trees is very high and that the coun­cil has been for­tu­nate to avoid such an ac­ci­dent in the past” he said.

The de­bate rum­bled on, but there was gen­eral agree­ment that af­ter grac­ing the Prom for a cen­tury and a half, time was run­ning out for Chel­tenham’s ven­er­a­ble chest­nuts.

The Prom­e­nade in 1964

The scene in the 1930s, above, and be­low in 1949

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