The average ‘Brit’ apparently moves house eight times in their lifetime according to research commissioned by electrical appliance firm, Bosch, anxious no doubt to remind us of its many homecare products we will need in our eight new homes.
Eight doesn’t seem a lot to me. Off the top of my head I can recall at least 20 moves, but I’ve actually stayed put for some 15 years now.
The research also says that most of us end up within just 63 miles of where we started. Well that’s true for my wife; we live just a couple of miles from where she was born. For me though, I’m a good 120 miles from my native Somerset.
Anxiety UK cites moving as one of life’s most stressful activities. And while I’ve always quite enjoyed it, I have seen others driven to distraction. I think I’m drawn to the orderliness that a ‘good move’ requires. I like order and when it comes to moving, I consider myself a good packer. In Trump terms, I’m a great packer, the best.
My most stressful move occurred when I left the packing to my wife. We lived with our one year old son in a top floor flat and were moving to our first proper house. Despite earlier protestations that all was under control, moving day found us racing around the flat stuffing its entire contents into supermarket carrier bags. That was a very stressful day for a consummate packer, but I’ve got over it. If you’ll excuse the pun, I’ve moved on.
I ponder all this now because we’ve just moved a tree, and all the books say that moving trees is very stressful for them.
We haven’t moved it far and well within 63 miles. Actually, it was just a few feet. And when I say we just moved a tree, what I really mean is a man with a digger lifted the tree complete with large rootball, left it lying on the lawn for a week or so (not great) before replanting it in its new home. Then, after several days deep thought, much chin stroking and re-measuring of gate and car widths, we asked hime to move it again – just a couple of feet further over. Double stress for said tree.
The tree move was prompted by our fine new driveway and the tree, an Amelanchier lamarckii, probably about twenty years old, was on a steep bank of earth being removed from one side of the old drive.
Now if I’m being honest, this bit of the task was very stressful, and not for the tree. Problem was nobody seemed to know the extent to which the steep bank of earth was supporting the end wall of the house next door. The worst case scenario was that the end of their house would fall down. The even more worst case scenario was that this would start a domino effect involving other houses further up the street. And the very worst case scenario? The whole street could come down.
My positive and upbeat view was that the bank couldn’t possibly be that vital to the stability of the street. Aren’t we long beyond the days when houses were held up by piles of earth? But my wife, whose association with the village goes back much further, and who has far superior knowledge of ancient construction than me, was less confident. Much less confident. And our neighbours who own the house, less confident still.
In fairness to them, the end of their house did fall down some years back, so I guess they had grounds for concern. Builders it seems, were far less thorough with their foundations when our respective houses were built some 300 years ago. But their wall had been rebuilt and surely good foundations would have been put in then? Surely.
Still, rather than spend thousands on a structural survey, we very sensibly opted for a local groundsman. He came with strong local experience and, more importantly, lives in the village too. With nowhere to hide, we felt we could trust him. He progressed tentatively, building a new retaining wall as he went. This time with deep foundations. Very deep foundations. Thankfully our instincts have proved correct, so far. The street is still standing and our neighbours still talk to us.
Amelanchier lamarckii is frequently cited as the perfect small tree. It has pretty pinkish white spring blossom and rich autumn colour. Ours has been trained as a multi-stemmed tree so has year-round, structural interest too. This particular tree also has sentimental value as a gift from a late cousin. So while the initial inclination may have been to replace rather than move, we wanted to try and keep it.
Despite my earlier comments, the tree was in fact removed very carefully from its original position, taking great care not to disturb the root ball any more than we had to. We did this in February while the tree was still dormant, and kept the rootball covered in thick tarpaulin to retain moisture while we set about digging its a huge new planting hole to easily accommodate the rootball, and to avoid forcing and breaking roots. New compost was added taking care to shake and tease it into the roots to eliminate air pockets and ensure the roots had contact with the soil. We also added a plastic tube running from surface to root to ensure the roots could be well watered through the coming summer. The ground was firmed and my next job is to apply a surface mulch to feed and help retain moisture.
The loss of some fibrous roots was inevitable so from now I will run a hose on the surface soil for a good hour each week – especially important as the tree is coming into blossom and leaf which will increase its water uptake. I’ll up this to twice a week in the summer when the tree is in full leaf and will need even more water.
Finally, in homage to my RHS training, I removed dead, damaged and diseased stems.
Fingers crossed and with a bit of TLC, it will survive the move. Let’s hope the village does too.