MEMORY LANE: When Alan Garnham felled one of this region’s last great elms

Cutting from the Diss Express of Alan Garnham with a massive elm ANL-150217-143001001
Cutting from the Diss Express of Alan Garnham with a massive elm ANL-150217-143001001

It was 31 years ago to the month that lumberjack Alan Garnham was tasked with felling one of the last of East Anglia’s big elms believed to be up to 1,000 years old.

Reported by the Diss Express in 1984, the 140ft tree stood in Wortham in the grounds of Rookery Farm, by the A143.

Timber merchant Norman Garnham, Alan’s father, who died five years ago, said at the time he knew of no other elm which compared to it. It measured 20ft around the base.

Alan said a typical tree might produce about 120 cubic feet of wood, but this one produced 1,400 cubic feet.

The tree gave 40 tonnes of timber fit for milling, and another 14 tonnes of firewood.

Alan, who was aged about 29 when he cut the tree down, and is 59 now, said: “This was the biggest tree I have ever cut down. I’ve done a couple of a similar size, but this one is very memorable.”

The tree was a victim of Dutch elm disease, which ravaged the countryside from the 1970s. Alan, who owns Waveney Tree Specialists, of Hoxne, said it did create additional work, but added: “Dutch elm disease altered the countryside considerably, because of the hedgerows and parkland trees. There’s only one or two I know of now.”

It was one of a pair of elms at the farm, with the other being felled about two years prior.

The tree had been dead for about a year, and it was feared that it could fall into the road, making it impassable for days.