The death of a copper beech

I took these photos of the garden last spring and summer.  Centre-stage is the magnificent copper beech, which has dominated the spot for years and years, providing homes and recreation for generations of garden birds and squirrels. It’s the very first thing we see as we glance out of the kitchen window, a statuesque barometer to the changing seasons: from bare winter branches, though to tightly furled budding springtime leaves, to the vibrant coppery russet leaves of high summer, and the burnished and tawny tones of those same leaves as they dry and fall in the Autumn .

I took this photo yesterday morning.

The ruined copper beech with our house just behind.
The ruined copper beech with our house just behind.

Our copper beech has gone.

On Friday night, the house became surrounded by an eerie moaning, and then a rushing sound that became ever louder as the wind, gathering speed, surged helter-skelter alongside the house.  Thin wiry branches of wisteria and ivy scrabbled urgently at the window panes.  The wind clattered down the chimney, coughing clods of oily soot from a long-extinguished fire into the hearth.  It was a noisy night.  So noisy that despite all the disturbance, none of us heard the moment when the mighty copper beech lost a battle and fell to the ground.

In the morning, the kitchen was unaccountably light for such a gloomy day.  We could see the sky where once our copper beech had stood.  I rushed down into the garden.  The tree could have lunged towards the house, at best breaking several windows.  It could have tumbled into the walled garden, taking with it the lovely brick wall up which clematis and old-fashioned roses scramble throughout the summer.  It could have crashed into the pond, shattering the ornamental statue in its centre, and unsettling rather a lot of fish and toads.  It did none of those.  Instead, it fell gracefully to the back of the lawn, avoiding other trees, and several flower beds.  It stacked itself up neatly, just waiting for the next stage in its long career.  Once it’s seasoned, our landlords, and their son and family will have enough fuel to keep their wood-burning stoves burning brightly for several winters to come.  Is that a fitting end to its long life?  I don’t know.  But it certainly means that it will  go on being appreciated for many years.

19 thoughts on “The death of a copper beech”

    1. It’s actually a very light room anyway. Just trying to make the best of it. As much as anything, I enjoyed the bird soap-operas that played out on the branches every day.


  1. Wow, what a shock! You will be in mourning. But what dignity in its falling, as you say. I too hope you enjoy the extra light in exchange. Also hope you are both gaining health ground each day.


    1. Well, I’m sure we’ll get used to it. My comment to Kalba, explains more of the pleasures of that tree. Thank you – I am cured, I’d say. Malcolm is rather slower, but getting there


  2. It’s always sad to see a tree fall but it sounds like you had a lucky escape. We were very struck to see how any near misses the were in the hurricane in ’86. As you say it won’t go to waste. Perhaps a turner could create a permanent memory.


  3. Oh, no! That’s so sad–losing a member of the family, almost, and changing your environment in ways you may not even realize yet. And the part about it dying in such a thoughtful way, as if protecting you–I swear I got a little misty . . .


  4. I still vividly recall the Hurricane in 1987 (not 86) as we lived in Essex and I was convinced the whole house was going to come down!
    Last Friday was definitely wild. Do you have any idea how old the tree was? Maybe another one could be planted in its place for future generations?


  5. Andrew’s first response was “nice dining table – is there much heartwood in it?” I love copper beech, such a beautiful tree. But a fallen tree always does some good, opening up light to other parts of the garden and encouraging the old plants. I hope that the next bout of stormy weather doesn’t cause any more damage.


    1. It did, sadly. More damage in the walled garden a couple of nights after that, despite apparently much less wind. Funny Andrew should want a dining table. A coffee table was seeming a possibility to the guys dismembering the poor tree, though the heart of the trunk is very diseased. And you’re right, there is more light now. Sad though……….


  6. How sad to lose such a beautiful tree and how thoughtful of it to fall in a convenient place. We had one like that in last year’s storms – a whopper that fell, not into our fledgling orchard or blocking the stream or into our neighbour’s garden, but neatly along the bank of the stream. We were sorry to lose it but have planted another in its place and it’ll keep us in firewood for another couple of winters.
    Thank you for the follow on Mrs Portly, by the way, much appreciated. Linda.


    1. You have my friend Penny Hull to thank for putting your blog before me. I think I’m going to enjoy your posts a lot…. so many blogs, so little time…. I’m glad you already have a new tree making its mark while the old one weathers down for firewood. Decisions still taking place here!


  7. You’ve shared a lovely tribute to the beech so that some of us mourn its passing too. Sounds like a lovely garden and perhaps there will be room for a memorial tree for future generations to enjoy.


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