Historic tree chopped following lightning strike

Written by St Katharine's School Year 6 on .

An historic tree in the grounds of St Katharine’s School in the Savernake Forest has been cut to a quarter of its original height after being struck by lightning.

Experts hope the work will save the 600-year-old oak while ensuring the safety of the children.

Armed with notebooks and cameras, our intrepid cub reporters from Year 6 went out to see what they could discover.


Report and picture by Shane Moore, Henry Taylor, Henry Bone and Thomas Phillips

A massive crane is on the site of St. Katharine’s, because during the summer holidays, lightning struck the huge specimen of an oak tree at the local forest school.

Mrs Stagg, the school bursar, said she was very sad and so did Ms Jones, the headteacher.

The tree that stood at an amazing 45m is being trimmed to 6m (with the aid of a crane) a tree surgeon recently declared that the tree was unsafe.

This has meant pupils cannot go on the playground, playing instead on the staff car park; staff have had to park at St Katherine’s church during this time.

The crane arrived on Wednesday, September 28 along with a lot of workmen. The project manager, Ian Bartlett who we interviewed said “it was an emergency case because most of our work is planned”, his company is based in Andover and the crane was from Bristol.

Before they could bring in the crane they had to install a steel track to stop the crane from sinking into the school field. It took them a whole afternoon to lay it down.

When the crane arrived it drove over the temporary road and onto a clearing of steel plates. From there they started to work on the daunting job of massively reducing the size of the enormous 600 year old oak.

The tree has to be trimmed because the crack has gone right down to the main union. The lightning strike shortened its life.

By cutting the tree down to 6m, it expands the life time it would have had. If they hadn’t cut the majestic oak tree to a height of 6m it could have died.

The whole school community is very sad about the tree being cut down. However one silver lining is that the climbing frame needed renewing anyway!


Report and picture by Oliver Turner, George Burnham and Daisy Franklin

Due to safety reasons, the beloved oak tree of St Katharines Primary School has now officially been cut down from an astounding height of 45 meters (10 double decker buses) to approximately 9 meters tall.

The head teacher, Ms Jones, has said that “Even sad doesn’t cover it.” This week a crane has been installed and has amazed the children of St. Katharine’s school as they have watched the work take place.

On Saturday, August 27 in the afternoon, St Katharines’ beautiful oak tree was struck by lightning; crushing the school play equipment and the sewage treatment plant. All of this led to heartbreak and devastation in the idyllic setting.

There have many changes such as portable toilets and having the pupils play in the school turning circle/staff car park. Therefore the school staff are having to park in the church car park.

The portable toilets were installed on Monday, September 5 (first day back for the pupils) which meant school closure, an extra day off school for students.

The internet connection, the school sever and phone lines were damaged too and caused more significant disruption.

Project manager, Ian Bartler said that “The operation to cut down the tree took a lot of organisation including temporary metal roads and finding the right people for the job.”

It took two days to cut the tree, but in the end they did it. The whole school watched as the last branch got chopped off. This tree has been loved and as cherished by generations of St Katharine’s pupils.

For the future they are hoping that the insurance will pay for a new climbing frame and a new sewage treatment plant. The sewage treatment plant alone would cost £103,000.

The climbing frame replacement could be a surprising £20,000 but they might choose to replace the old undestroyed play equipment too. Also they used some wood to make bark for the school’s bark area. The rest, they will keep and season it, for future use.

The school community are now getting ready to get back to normal again! The pupils will be allowed to go back on the playground soon. “We are wishing the tree luck to regenerate and stay with us for a few 100 years longer,” said some of the Year 6 children.


Report and picture by Bertie, Olivia, Penny and Niamh

The scene on the playground at St Katharine’s primary school has drastically changed. An 8 metre short bole monolith is all that remains of a once majestic oak.

It was the 27th August when lightning hit the tree and crushed the school climbing frame, cutting phone lines and internet connection. On September 28 a crane had to be transported to the school and begin the process of cutting the tree down.

The head teacher, Ms Jones, reports that the first thing she felt when she heard the news that the tree had to come down, was great sorrow. The silver lining is that they can make lots of things out of the wood from their beloved oak.

The tree came down on top of the school’s sewage treatment plant so the consequences are that the school have had to use portable toilets outside of the building, there has been some disruption by taking lower classes to the toilet during lessons as they cannot go outside unsupervised.

Also the pupils have had to use the car park as a playground. This is hard as it is a small space and there is not much room to run around.



Report and picture by Leon, Sophie, Oskar and Harry

A crane arrived to start the job of cutting and reducing a grand Oak tree at St Katharine's school. The crane was needed to lift down the branches safely as many of the limbs weighed more than a tonne.

The tree was originally 45 meters in height - the same height as 10 double decker buses.

The strike happened on the Saturday of the August bank holiday. Since then the internet connection and phone lines have been repaired and the fallen limbs cleared up. However, there is much more work still to be done.

Originally they had called in a JCB and a team of three tree surgeons to help cut up the debris that fell off the tree. Some of that wood landed on the sewage treatment plant which has consequentially forced the school to use portable toilets.

Mr Bartlett (the project manager) commented that this was one of the biggest tree projects that they had done.

Before they could carry out the operation on the tree, a tree surgeon had to climb the tree and take pictures of the damage. Mr Bartlett said that there was a crack that started at the union and ended a quarter of the way down the trunk.

As a result the tree had been seriously weakened and had to be drastically reduced in size to make it safe for the pupils to play under.

The school community were sad to see such a beautiful tree, which has always been an important part of the school, reduced to such a small height.


Report and picture  by Alice Ford, Milo Davison, Leah Jowdie and Jemima Hagerty

A 600 year old oak tree is being cut down by workmen. The old oak, at St. Katharine’s primary school, was struck by lightning.

The lightning struck on Saturday, August 27 which caused several very large limbs to fall to the ground. Jemima said “This oak has always been the heart of the school so for it to be struck by lightning it is a great disappointment for all of us.”

On September 28 a large crane arrived on the school premises. Metal plating was placed down to carry the 100 ton crane across the field. There were two different cranes during the period of three days. The work is being controlled by the tree surgeons.

The school is being affected in all kind of different ways, such as the sewage treatment plant was destroyed by the falling branches, so they are having to use portable toilets and are having to use the car park as a playground.

The pupils and the staff are having to work even harder than usual. Ms Jones said “I haven’t been able to do my job properly as I have spent lots of time dealing with this” The school community is taking this well, as the problem is getting better and things are being fixed.

The tree used to be 45m tall or (10 double decker buses high) but because the tree got struck they had to remove the crown of the tree so now it is 8-10m high.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday the workmen started the treatment on the tree and to do that they had to make the gate on the field bigger to fit the crane in. To do the job there were many workers such as, the climber who was up the tree, the crane driver and the workers helping on the ground. Ian Bartlett, the project manager, said that the tree will survive for about 200-300 more years.

At the end of Thursday the school watched as the last branch got cut down. It was sad but it’s good for the school. Ms Jones told us that the final clearing of the tree will be finished during the weekend.

We are not sure when the work is going to end or when we are going to have our climbing frame back. But we still have hope in the school that everything will be back to normal eventually.