When we moved to Maison Barbe in November 2017, we found the driveway covered in leaves from the four huge plane trees on both sides of the entry gate. Walking around the grounds, we’ve identified another four, even taller, plane trees, three of them sustaining the goats’ hut.
We didn’t think much about it, but have subsequently found out that the said trees need to be pollarded yearly so they stay under control. If you don’t know what pollarding is (and neither did I until now), it is a method of pruning that entails cutting the higher branches of trees to restrict their growth in height.
I didn’t know what pollarding was before moving to France or, more exactly, before watching one of the episodes of the Escape to the Chauteau programme on Channel 4, in which Dick hires a tree surgeon to cut the branches of the plane trees lining up the driveway towards the chauteau’s entrance (to Angel’s desperation, who was relying on the trees for natural shade for the upcoming wedding receptions). I must confess I was on Angel’s side at the time of watching the program (who likes bald trees and are they ever going to grow back?) but having seen the sheer amount of leaves that we had to clean up about five times in one month (as you can see from the image below), finally made me appreciate the importance of pollarding.
To my own dismay, my husband purchased a chainsaw (thankfully, a mini-one until he becomes more chainsaw-savvy) and proceeded to do his own pollarding. I would have happily paid someone to do it for us, but he is a man who’s not afraid to get his hands dirty himself. Despite his fear of heights (did I mention that?), he got on the ladder and swiftly cut the branches of the entryway trees. So swiftly that I didn’t even get the chance to take any photos.
The result was wood for the fire!
Come spring though, the menace (as you can see from the image below) of the plane trees by the goats’ hut was no longer to be ignored.
But even my enterprising husband knew that he needed allies if he was to face those giants. Once again, our neighbour Murray came to the rescue and together with his friend Sebastian helped Alistair bring down the most out of control branches.
However, there was one last tree standing. Armed with his trusted mini-chainsaw, my husband attacked the last remaining branches.
He proceeded with caution, but even my hands were shaking on the camera seeing him go up the unstable ladder.
You could see his sweat glistening in the sun, the cloudless sky and the sun making it feel almost like 30 degrees Celsius. When you’re up that high and the branches are that thick, suddenly the problem isn’t the safe handling of the chainsaw, as it is having heavy wood falling on your head.
One by one the branches fell and the tree felt less threatening. Alistair was all focus like a zen master.
‘Only a few branches left,’ I screamed, encouragingly (or perhaps hysterically).
‘I’m never going to let these fuckers grow like that again!’ he said, descending with shaky arms and legs, having pollarded the hell out of the trees.