Lessons are learned as Great Storm anniversary is marked in Petworth Park

Winds reaching 110mph ripped through homes, gardens and woods across the Midhurst and Petworth area on the night of October 16,1987 devastating everything in their path.

Monday, 9th October 2017, 3:20 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 9:12 am
Picture courtesty of National Trust/Martin Sadler

At Petworth Park 750 trees were lost, fallen timber was piled 40 feet high and a 245-year-old Lebanon cedar tree was strewn across the grounds.

Now the National Trust is marking the 30th anniversary of the Great Storm in which hundreds of thousands of trees across 3,000 acres of its woodland were lost in a single night.

And it says the storm was a chance to rethink the way it worked in the outdoors and managed its woodlands and today the conservation charity works more closely with ecological processes.

National Trust rangers, who witnessed the chaos were devastated.

Now a senior gardener at Petworth, Martin Sadler had worked at the estate for just 18-months when the storm hit.

“I was only 18 and I’d never seen anything like it before. The trees came down like dominoes.

“I slept through that night - I didn’t hear the storm at all. The next morning, when I drove into the park, it was completely devastated.”

But from the wreckage emerged new thinking and lessons that continue to evolve in the charity’s care and conservation work today.”

For example in the aftermath 25,000 trees were planted at Petworth following guidelines issued by the Forestry Commission.

Martin said: “In hindsight, this wasn’t the best approach as it didn’t give the trees room to make root. We’re now thinning these trees, removing the weaker specimens to give the stronger ones more space. I think we’ll probably be doing it for at least another ten years.

“It’s helping to future-proof the estate from extreme weather. Allowing room for the wind to reach each tree helps them build a tolerance to the wind by growing stronger roots.”

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