Monday, 17 September 2012

Warrington Tree-fellas Back Home

Ninety members of the Warrington and District Amateur Tree-Sawyers Historical Felling club have just returned home from a trip to Poland. The men from Warrington spent a long weekend in Białowieża Forest on the Polish - Belarus border camping, cutting down trees and making use of the duty-free benefits being next to a green border offers. The group claims to have felled over two hundred trees in three days. "It has been a great success", says Baz Thugwit, honorary president of the club, "we've never cut down so many healthy four hundred year old trees in a single weekend". The group specialises in finding and felling historic trees for fun. "Just think", member Igor Palin reflects "some of those trees were saplings when their King John the Unharmonious was on the throne and beginning his campaign to reform the music of the liturgy, and I cut it down, wow. it really gives you a sense of history".

The tree-sawers club was set up in Warrington when the town council passed a bylaw forbidding trees in the city due to hygiene concerns. They have club meetings at irregular intervals and have a forum (closed access, registered users only) and hold tree-felling meetings whenever they can get access to historical trees. Soon after the group was formed, they very quickly ran out of trees to destroy in their own region and for the past four years have been forced to go to other countries to cut, slash and burn trees there. This is their first time in Białowieża and Mr Thugwit says he'd like to go back again. The only problem is most of the area - one of the last genuine pieces of ancient wildwood in Europe - is protected by law as a national park. The area which they felled however, despite having a unique ecosystem and a sizeable stand of historic trees, was not in the boundaries of the park because it had proven impossible when the part was formed to sort out an ownership dispute of this four hectare parcel created by the nationalisation of land in the 1940s. The historic trees in this parcel were all destroyed this weekend and the wildlife driven out, but if the group manages to find another area which also has not yet been protected, they will be back, Mr Thugwit says, whether or not the forest authorities and local inhabitants approve or not. "What's wrong with us having a bit of fun at the expense of the Polish forests?" he asks, "it's legal innit? It's not as if there are no trees in Poland".

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