Tag Archives: Gower
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Elm

14 Jun

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Just finished this gate for a client who wanted to stop his grand daughter venturing out of the back yard and improve the security of his property. A deceptively simple brief made more interesting by the fact that the client’s house is n a conservation area – so the design had to be traditional. I managed to get hold of some wind-blown Elm for the gate and some nicely figured oak for the posts. It got me thinking about the last time I saw a mature specimen of ¬†Ulmus minor.

In the summer of 2010 I was in Wales on the Gower peninsula on a camping holiday with my wife. She and I had followed a rambling footpath deep into the Welsh countryside when we came across three huge (30 m +) trees in the hedge row beside us. We were struck at once by the size of the trunks (2 Р2.5 meters in diameter) and the distinctive oval leaves with serrated edges, puckered and rough on top and downy underneath. I knew at once that we had found native elm trees, and these big specimens had escaped the ravages of  Dutch Elm disease spread by the Scolytus beetle which has changed the landscape of the British countryside, robbing us of a majestic skyline in many park lands and open countryside. This secret corner of the beautiful Gower Peninsula holds three great survivors.

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

I have found the odd small specimen in Sheffield and continue to come across the remnants of felled elm trees in local hedge rows which continue to coppice. Elm loves to reproduce by suckering. The tree may have withdrawn for a time from the limelight, but it survives discretely in juvenile form all over the British countryside.

Elm has fantastic properties for makers. My dad used to make coffins and guttering for the eaves of houses out of elm – it is renowned for its rot-proof properties (ironic when you think that the living tree succumbs so readily to an Ascomycete fungus). In the middle ages, large tree trunks were hollowed out for guttering, and because of its incompressibility it has been used for primitive gearing (in flour mills) and lock gates on waterways in the past.

I would love to see a resurgence of this magnificent tree, but it will not happen in my lifetime. In the mean time whenever I find a bit I will use it with respect. What better use of a random collection of elm pieces than a gateway to protect the next generation?

June 17th – the finished piece:

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