The ‘irreplaceable’ trees destroyed in their thousands by Storm Arwen

Storm Arwen battered much of Britain at the end of last week, causing devastating consequences including loss of life and destruction of property. Nature was also hit hard, and the National Trust have reported a 'huge blow' to gardens, landscapes and woodland.

The world-famous Bodnant Garden near Conwy in north Wales was among the worst-hit spots. Over 50 trees were uprooted including a 51-metre ‘Champion’ coast redwood — the largest of its kind in Wales — while many hybrid rhododendrons that are unique to the property have been lost.

Thousands of trees blew down in the Lake District, while the Wallington Estate in Northumberland reported the worst destruction caused by a storm in 40 years.  Among the thousands of trees lost to the 98mph winds were 250-year-old oak and beech trees planted by Sir Walter Calverley Blackett, as well as the Atholl Larch – the last remaining of six larch trees given to the property in 1738 by the Duke of Atholl – which had been split in two. The property is without power, phone lines and water, and all footpaths are blocked.

Wallington, Northumberland. ©National Trust

‘It’s been a real shock to staff and volunteers coming in to see the devastation caused in one night,’ said Adam Salvin, acting head gardener at Bodnant, where the clear-up is expected to take months.

‘There have been tears. We’ve seen storms and floods here before but this damage is on a scale not seen in living memory. The area worst affected is Furnace Wood where we’ve done major renovation work over the last decade.

‘The storm has ripped through that hillside. It’s very hard to witness. But nature will recover. We will bounce back.’

Loughrigg, Lake District. ©National Trust

Andy Jasper, Head of Gardens and Parklands at the National Trust, put the destruction in context. ‘In horticultural terms, what has happened at Bodnant is highly significant. We’ve lost some of our most important and earliest specimen trees and unique rhododendrons – and the extent of the damage is still unfolding. It’s a huge blow to British heritage.

‘With it being National Tree Week we had expected to be celebrating the extraordinary trees in our care – not witnessing the scale of destruction we have. But this week has taken on a new significance for us, and we’re asking our supporters to donate, if they can, to help us restore the places affected.

North Devon. ©National Trust

‘Our gardens and landscapes will take months to clear up and years, even decades, to fully restore. Some won’t be the same again but I have no doubt that our amazing teams will recreate these much-loved places and reopen them for everyone to enjoy. We will also make sure that this restoration work is as resilient as possible to extreme weather events of this kind, which are becoming ever more common as the climate changes.’

Damage is still being assessed — in the Lake District alone that process could take weeks — but the National Trust expects the damage to cost it at least £3m. The charity is appealing for donations to help — see nationaltrust.org.uk/woodlands-appeal.