SPC protects historic churchyard walls by removing non-native trees - Saltford Parish Council

Last week Saltford Parish Council removed the two Lawson Cypress trees by the north wall of St Mary’s Churchyard.

This followed an appeal by both St Mary’s Church and SPC last spring to find the person(s) who had planted the trees, to let them know the Parish Council’s plans. Please see SPC’s news article ‘Search for person(s) who planted/tend Lawson Cypress trees in churchyard’.

The two fast growing and non-native trees were planted without permission in the churchyard. Concerns were raised that not only were these encroaching on nearby memorials, but that they had begun to undermine a nearby section of the historic wall surrounding the churchyard. This subsequently led to safety concerns as to the future stability of this section of wall.

The photos below show Cllr Chris Warren, Chair of Saltford Parish Council, safely removing the trees last week (on Friday 4 February 2022). SPC waited until this date to give as much notice as possible prior to their removal, and to ensure the trees were taken down when no birds were nesting in the trees. The latter is in line with RSPB guidance (more information in SPC’s news article here).

Saltford Parish Council is grateful to Cllr Chris Warren for voluntarily carrying out this work to minimise costs to the Parish Council incurred by having to remove the trees. SPC will still need to meet the costs of the removal of the trees from the churchyard, which it is currently arranging.

Saltford Parish Council has recently appointed (and will pay for, as resolved under item 12 at the December meeting) a structural engineer to assess the safety of the churchyard’s walls at St Mary’s Church. This assessment will take place later in February. A report following the assessment will be an item on a future meeting agenda, and SPC will seek quotes for any works required as identified by the survey.

The churchyard walls in existence today surround the churchyard in its entirety, parts of which form the boundary between the churchyard and Saltford Manor. Not only is Saltford Manor the village’s oldest inhabited building – dating from the 12th century – but it is also believed to be the longest continuously occupied private house in England. The tower base of St Mary’s Church dates from the late Saxon period, with the majority of the building dating from the early Norman period. More information can be found on SPC’s ‘History of Saltford‘ page.

Saltford Parish Council (which manages safety at the closed churchyard) and St Mary’s Church politely request that members of the public do not plant trees in the churchyard. This is due both to the delicate and sensitive nature of this location, and due to the age of nearby memorials and structures. Please note that any new trees planted without permission may be removed for safety reasons.

Saltford Parish Council is in favour of native tree planting with the appropriate permissions, and has itself overseen the planting of two oak trees in front of Saltford Hall in 2020. SPC also promotes tree and flower planting initiatives by other groups and organisations, as well as currently running its own ‘Saltford Wildflower Project: All You Seed Is Love’ environmental project. ‘Environmental matters’ is a standing item on SPC full council agendas, in line with SPC’s Policy Overview.

For information about suitable trees to plant in private gardens and green spaces in Saltford, residents are encouraged to consult the Saltford Environment Group’s list of trees at ‘Planting tree species ecologically appropriate to Saltford’. B&NES Council are responsible for planting and maintaining trees on public land, for more information please visit the Trees and Woodlands page on the B&NES Council website.

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