Pollarding is a form of tree management that removes the upper branches of a tree, resulting in a dense head of branches and/or foliage regrowth. Pollard trees take a characteristic shape as a result of this.
Historically this was common practice in wood pasture to provide leafy foliage as a diet supplement to grazing animals and also as a source of wood.
Many pollard trees you may come across in wood pasture are no longer being managed in this way, but they are still identifiable by their distinctive shape, with all the limbs growing from one height on the trunk, which often has a swollen knotty appearance.
Perhaps surprisingly, the periodic cutting involved in pollarding actually increases the longevity of the tree, causing many to survive as veteran and even ancient trees; providing fantastic deadwood in the bole of the tree and in all the nooks and crevices pollarding creates.
Many of these old trees may even be older than they look, the process of pollarding actually reduces the rate at which these trees grow, this means you can’t estimate their age so accurately using girth as you would with normal trees.
Scroll through the gallery to see examples of pollard trees
Old oak pollard with owl box
This old oak tree has the characteristic shape of an old pollard, with all the major limbs growing from one height on the trunk, and knotted looking scar growth at the top of the trunk. Owls favour roosts in open areas of rough grassland, where thy will find a good supply of small mammals to hunt.