I wish to respond to an article titled Trees are causing a stir in Rothbury, featured in the Gazette on May 22.
As the contractor responsible for the work in question, I wish to correct, for public information, a number of inaccuracies featured in the article.
The wood in question may well be used by the public but it is a commercial wood and had reached maturity. Several residents in the area had raised concerns regarding the threat posed by giant beech trees overhanging their properties in the event of stormy weather.
Before any work commenced, several technical difficulties emerged. The site is on a steep slope and the underlying glacial alluvium is unstable.
There is a mixture of large boulders, silver sand (sometimes known as silver or quick sand) and peat.
There are also several springs which can change their point of emergence when the ground is disturbed. With the landslip at Cragside fresh in my mind, it was obvious that to prevent the risk of a similar event, it would be necessary to remove the trees in short bursts and only in dry weather.
Of course, I wasn’t to know that because of waterlogging in 2012 it wasn’t until June that year that I was able to start extracting timber in quantity.
Even working in small areas, I was unable to prevent a few minor mud-slides which I was able to monitor with the cooperation of the local residents for which I’m very grateful.
The intermittent progress caused by the weather and the technical difficulties, notwithstanding trying to run a saw mill, meant I ended up doing most of the work myself.
When the weather was favourable this often meant working late into the evening much to the amusement of local residents. Yes, there was the occasional complaint which I became aware of usually through a third party.
The parcel of trees on Hillside East was finished last as it was the easiest to work and the shortest to extract. I hope this explains some of the reasons why the job took longer than would normally be expected.
The area at Hillside East was picked over for firewood in the autumn of 2013 and was then cleaned to a high standard. However, in the late autumn some flying tipping occurred. This consisted of soil and builders rubble which was dumped at the entrance to the site. This waste began to creep onto the road and instead of alerting the authorities I attempted to bulldoze it further onto the site.
Because of the nature of the material this proved very difficult. The picture in your article shows a digger bucket and a tractor which I had been using to try and rectify the mess! This particular mess was not of my making and I feel that the picture used is unrepresentative of the facts.
On the issue of stump removal I know of no forestry company in the UK who would do this. Leaving the stumps is normal practice prior to replanting. In this case the removal of the stumps would have caused a catastrophic destabilisation of the hillside and possible widescale environmental damage.