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Memory Lane – The Cawthorne Yew….sometimes your best is not good enough!

Looking back….we can tell a tree’s story…..admire an image…..capture a moment…..remember a special event… inspired – to create a memory for tomorrow. 

I hope you enjoy this regular peep into some of John’s bonsai history.

Memory Lane – The Cawthorne Yew….sometimes your best is not good enough!
February 2005 and I was surprised to receive a telephone call from an old client of mine from my Chartered Surveyor days. He lived in the picturesque village of Cawthorne some 4 miles from Barnsley and was having an extension built to the rear of his house…… what did this have to do with me now?
Unfortunately a large old Yew tree would have to be removed to make way for the extension and knowing of my “tree” connections he wanted me to try and save it.
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Can you imagine my expression when I walked in the garden and saw the tree for the first time….quite an exclamation……it was bigger than the house for heavens sake!
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Before I had chance to politely decline the invitation I was informed that a tree surgeon would be employed to remove the bulk of the tree and that an onsite machine would help excavate the roots. It appeared that my fate and perhaps the tree’s fate also had already been decided.
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            Basically I had myself a job! I duly returned and worked with the tree surgeon as he gradually reduced this magnificent old tree to a somewhat undignified stump. I told him which branches to cut and where to leave the final scars.
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The builders were to use their machine to dig a trench around the tree as best they could and then I would be contacted to return with my team to complete the removal process …… something to look forward to then!!!
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When we returned a trench had been duly dug and a mountain of soil removed. Armed to the teeth we got in with the tree and ferociously battled to extricate the remaining roots from the soil. As you can imagine this was not easy as the strongest roots were directly under the trunk, under the remaining rootball.
Eventually we need the machine again to make the final lift out of the hole. Have you ever seen a substantial mechanical excavator pulled into a hole by a tree!!! Quite funny when I look back but at the time it was a bit scary……like what do we try next!
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The light was fading fast but finally man and beast together got the better of the obstinate tree and he was hoisted in the air. It took six of us and the machine to shuffle him into the back of my van. Have you seen that cake advert where the Range Rover tips up……well that night I saw a different version close up!
Having got the tree home it was now late so we wet the rootball and left the tree overnight in the van.
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Surely the hard work was out of the way now……….you think so??? If getting the tree out of the ground was a problem getting the tree out of the van was something else!!! As leader of the pack you could rely on me to come up with a brainwave…..simply fasten a chain to the tree and to the tow bar on my car and I could drag the tree out…….no problem…….BIG problem!!!……..I gently set off and gradually gained momentum……why was everyone waving vigorously?……I was not only dragging the tree but I was dragging the van with it!!!….unbelievable, one night together and they were inseparable!
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The only thing left to do was repot the tree directly from the van so we started to reduce the rootball in-situ. Roots and soil were selected/discarded until we could edge the tree a little out of the van. The pot (I use this term very loosely) was a large pallet box which was prepared by removing one side completely.
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The compost mixture of akadama and bims was placed in the box and the tree was manhandled, cajoled, enticed and spoken to very nicely until at last we had him in position. I have not (dare not) yet worked out how many sacks of compost we used but this has to be the most expensive tree I ever repotted.
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Finally, with the aid of a reluctant pallet truck he was given a sheltered spot in the top greenhouse where he could be admired by visitors and all who attended our Newstead 2 Extravaganza.
The tree lasted about two years and put out what appeared to be strong new growth. He was carefully watered and misted, gently fed, and given revival tonics but it was not to be. It was never just about making a bonsai, it was an attempt to try and save a gracious old tree and perhaps give him a new lease of life. I can honestly say that everyone involved with this process gave their all and for that I thank them. Sadly when you are involved with nature it’s a sobering thought but sometimes your best is just not good enough…………?