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The results gathered from the survey of oak trees in the south of the Wirral peninsula showed several interesting trends in the tree population. The majority of trees measured were over-mature (on average 64 percent) and would be overdue for felling if they were being managed commercially. The trees in transept 4 were found to have a significantly greater dbh and total height than trees in any other part of the survey area, possibly because they may have been established first, being at the centre of the Lever-Hulme Estate.

Throughout the transects, although most trees appeared healthy from a distance, it was found on closer inspection that approximately 80 percent were incapable of producing any timber of sawlog quality, usually because of decay in the trunk. The size distribution of the oak on the Wirral did not match those of the 1979-82 Tree Census of Merseyside (Forestry Commission, 1984), suggesting that the oaks found on the Wirral were more over-mature than those in the rest of the county. The management of the present population for any kind of sawlog or fuelwood production would be extremely difficult due to uneven make-up of the population, in addition to the factors mentioned above.

Future management plans might consider the possibility of planting new trees on sites such as those suggested by the Countryside Commission (1974), which would maximise their sawlog and fuelwood potential as well as their attractiveness to wildlife. Although this project only considers the oak there is no reason why a mixture of broadleaved species should not be planted on these sites. Over-mature trees, which are too expensive to remove, might be left to break-up in situ, as long as they pose no threat to public safety. Trees on roadsides appear to be managed better than farmland trees, perhaps due to the greater risk to public safety. The latest recommended addition to the Common Agricultural Policy is likely to change the face of the British Countryside dramatically and if it comes into force, have a greater effect on the future of hedgerow trees than any other factor discussed in this project.

After considering all these factors it would seem that oak trees growing within hedgerows are unlikely to remain a major feature of the British countryside in the future, once the present population has died-out. This is due, for the most part, to a lack of effective management and changing farming techniques.

© 1987 Robert I. Bradshaw

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