Capability Brown contraption


As we celebrate 300 years since his birth, there’s no doubting the vision and energy of Lancelot Capability Brown in his quest to achieve the perfect vista. During his illustrious career he moved whole villages, dammed and flooded valleys, shifted millions of tons of earth….. and planted millions of trees. He also transplanted quite a few to create the desired look quickly and pioneered a bit of kit that hauled the trees out of the ground and wheeled them to their new home. It was hard work, costly and needless to say not all of them survived.

Fast forward a few centuries and heavy engineering, clever machinery and a greater technical arboricultural understanding allow us to move larger, established trees with a fairly high success rate. Although the US seems to have led the way for some time, we are catching up and, although still relatively uncommon, more trees around the UK are on the move. Even trees subject to Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) can, with local authority approval, be relocated.

For semi-mature trees the usual method of relocation is with a tree spade (see below) while larger specimens require more complex, specialist frames to protect and support them. Whichever method is used, the tree should first be prepared for moving to minimise the shock of being uprooted. This involves digging out a trench around the tree to encourage new growth of finer roots nearer to the tree, after which the tree is left to acclimatise for a period (ideally up to a year, even two in some cases). When replanted in a suitable sized pit the tree is often anchored to help it settle in to its new home.

tree spade

Photo: Ruskins Trees & Landscapes


Tree relocation can still be relatively expensive and is sometimes logistically tricky – nothing has changed there, then. And the time it takes to prepare for it properly means it is not really a workable solution for development sites. But Mr Brown would no doubt be suitably impressed with our ability to move larger specimens with relative ease.

Watch this for sheer scale and engineering expertise – although sadly there doesn’t seem to be any follow-up information on how well the tree fared.