Consultation

Cobham Remembrance Avenue

Why do we want to consult?

The Avenue of Remembrance of flowering Cherry Trees on Tilt Common in Cobham is both a well-known local landmark and a registered war memorial. Cherry trees only have a life of 40 - 60 years and because replacement trees are not thriving with the severely compacted ground, the Avenue has lost its impact and we now need to consider the best course of action for this important landmark.

Following consultation with your local Ward Councillors and key community stakeholder groups, it is now important we understand your wishes as the residents of Cobham and Stoke d’Abernon. Please take the time to look at the report below and the additional information provided. It is important to note that the Council has secured funding for both the options outlined below and no decision has yet been reached. Thank you for your interest and we look forward to hearing your views by the deadline of 30 September 2017.

Drop in sessions 

We have scheduled two community drop-in sessions to give local residents the opportunity to find out more and complete the survey:

  • Tuesday, 19 September from 5-7pm at Cobham Library

  • Saturday, 23 September from 9am-2.30pm at Cobham Farmers Market 

Background

The Avenue of Remembrance, consists of forty-four cherry trees and was originally planted in 1946 by the Cobham Village Women's Institute. Each tree commemorated a member of the armed forces from Cobham who had died during the Second World War. The dedication took place on Sunday 24 February 1946.

At that time, each tree had a metal collar giving details of the member of the forces it commemorated, but over time some of the trees have died and all but three of the collars have disappeared. In 2009 a memorial plaque commissioned by the community and led by the Cobham Conservation and Heritage Trust, was unveiled at the site displaying the names that would have originally been on the collars.

Issues

Cherry trees as a species are fast growing and have a naturally shorter life span than other landscape trees, often reaching a stage of over maturity and beginning to decline within 20 years. This, coupled with the fact that they are highly susceptible to pest and disease problems means that the decline in the trees in the Avenue of Remembrance, the oldest of which are now reaching 70 years, is to be expected. It has been necessary for several of the original cherry trees to be removed as they have died, and the remaining original trees are now at a stage of decline where their life expectancy is short.

Current condition plan of the Avenue of Remembrance.

In recent years, replacement trees have been planted to replace those which have been removed as they have died, however these have not thrived.

There are several issues to be considered that mean continuing with this approach is not sustainable.

  • Establishment issues –The main factors contributing to the establishment issues being faced at Tilt Road are:

1. Soil compaction – Foot and vehicular traffic (mowers) over the ground in the root zone of the Avenue has led to the ground becoming heavily compacted over the years, which hinders aeration, water infiltration, and root penetration. A lack of soil oxygen and poor water drainage can retard root growth, making establishment difficult.

2. Soil depletion and re-plant disease – As a rapidly growing tree species, cherries quickly deplete soil of nutrients and as the specimens being replaced were of a significant age the soil in these areas is now extremely poor. Cherries also suffer from replant disease making the establishment of new trees of the same species, on a site where one previously stood, difficult.

  • Symmetry - The impact of the avenue has been lost, as trees of vastly differing ages and at different stages of maturity cannot offer the same sense of uniformity and symmetry that an avenue demands.

  • History and legacy – The Avenue of Remembrance has provided an important memorial for Cobham since its development, and continuing the current approach risks not having a continuing legacy for future generations.

Taking these factors into consideration it is now necessary to find a long-term solution and the approach taken by the Council in managing this important part of the history of Cobham must be reviewed. Given the sensitivity of the site and the problems we have encountered, the Council has sought the specialist advice of a leading professional arborist and the options being considered are listed below. 

Options

Taking the issues outlined above into consideration, there are two potential options for the future management of the Avenue of Remembrance:

Option 1

  • Continue to replace existing trees as old original and those more recently planted fail 

    This option would involve retaining the existing cherry trees (original and more recently planted) and managing their decline, removing them when their condition was such that it was no longer safe or practical to retain them. Replacement trees would be planted as required.

    Positives of this approach:

    The remaining 5-8 original trees will be retained for as long as possible. For the 3 trees already identified and marked on the plan as in serious decline, this will be 1-2 years at most. The remaining 5 will also have a limited lifespan, for the reasons highlighted above. Please see Current condition plan of the Avenue of Remembrance for details of trees which will be removed for safety reasons in autumn 2017 and those in serious decline. Please note that the plan only deals with the original trees. It will also be necessary to remove some of the more recently planted trees which have never successfully established and are also in decline.

    Negatives of this approach:

    The original design intention of the WI, as highlighted in the contemporary news item (attached) and also identified by the War Memorials Trust during our discussions with them, was to provide an avenue of trees as a memorial. By replacing the trees one at a time, they will all be at different stages of their lifecycle at any given time and it will be impossible to achieve a true uniform avenue for the future.

    To give newly planted trees the best chance of surviving and thriving, substantial ground works are required, however this will be almost impossible to achieve without damaging the root zones of the remaining trees and further shortening their lifespan.

    Over time, as well as the effect of the avenue being lost there is a real risk that the new trees planted will not thrive and the memorial could be lost altogether.

Option 2

  • Invest and renew the Avenue of Remembrance, protecting it for the future

    This option would involve the removal of all of the existing trees, carrying out significant soil improvement works and replacing with new young cherries, accompanied by a strip of meadow underneath, to help reduce compaction and aid establishment.

    Positives of this approach:

    A renewed Avenue of Remembrance would be created, restoring the memorial to an avenue, as was the original intention of those who planted it. Works would be carried out in autumn 2017, meaning the new trees would be in place for the centenary of the end of WWI and established and the avenue restored to its former glory in time for the WWII centenary commemorations in 2039 – 2045.

    This approach allows for the necessary ground works to be carried out, giving the best possible chance for the new trees to thrive and provide a renewed refurbished memorial continuing the legacy for the future.

    Negatives of this approach:

    The remaining 5 - 8 original cherries, planted in 1946 would have to be removed.

Read the views of the War Memorials Trust's Conservation Team on the proposed options for the future of the Avenue of Remembrance.

Summary

As outlined above the Avenue of Remembrance has been in decline for several years and the point has now been reached that it is necessary for a decision to be taken on the future of this memorial. The views of the community are extremely important in reaching this decision and it is essential to understand how best to meet their long-term objectives, while managing the site in a responsible way. The Council has already secured the funding required for whichever option is decided upon, based on the views of the residents and organisations of Cobham.  

Please have your say by filling in the online questionnaire

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