Kingston Maurward’s Level 3 Arboriculture students have attempted to scale the dizzying heights of the 35 metre Sequoiadendron Giganteum tree situated on the estate’s sports field.
The tree – thought to be nearly 130 years old – was climbed by the specialist students using skills honed during their course to get an accurate measurement as part of their tree survey training.
Using various estimating techniques prior to the climb the estimated height makes it the 11th tallest tree in the UK and the climb was designed to verify it.
Part of the conifer family, the species originates from Californian forests and fares surprisingly well in the UK – in fact actively thrives despite the challenging climate – and could live up to a thousand years old.
The genus was introduced to the UK in the eighteenth century and planted on large estates such as Kingston Maurward as a status symbol. It is thought that there were originally two or four of the trees planted in the grounds but this is the only one to have prospered.
Students used various techniques in their bid to get to the top of the tree and faced several challenges, not only as it rained throughout the attempt so they had to be more aware of health and safety issues, but the branches – with their unique spongy bark – grow downwards rather than up, presenting further complications. As conditions further deteriorated during the day the climb was halted mid-afternoon.
Student ‘M.J.’ said: “Climbing this tree was great fun but things are never as simple as they seem – due to its size the tree has not been maintained over the years, and with the branches growing downwards it’s more of a challenge. It did give us an opportunity to improve our climbing and tree-reading techniques, which is invaluable to help us understand trees both above and below the ground.”
Arboriculture tutor Roland Hughes said: “This is an excellent practice climb for the students – It will stand them in excellent stead for the future if they are asked to tackle trees that grow this way – plus, it will probably be the tallest tree they’ll ever climb!”