VIDEO: Forestry skills on show as Crathes bids farewell to conker giants

Tree surgeons put their skills to the test yesterday when they felled two giants in Aberdeenshire.

An expert forestry team from Mar Lodge Estate were recruited to take down two 20-metre horse chestnut trees close to Crathes Castle near Banchory.

The historic National Trust property was a close neighbour of the well-loved trees – believed to be around 200 years old – which had become infected with a harmful fungus.

The towering creations, which were cherished by visitors, staff and volunteers and have been prolific conker producers, had been affected by a species of honey fungus called Armillaria.

This appears as black bootlaces or “rhizomorphs” – a thick travelling root-like fungal structure which can be seen where the bark has fallen off the tree trunk.

Trust ranger Toni Watt said: “The rhizomorphs are strangely beautiful in their own right, forming a geometric pattern all the way up the trunk, but it does mean the tree is totally infected by the fungus and evidence is seen in the root buttresses which are wet and soggy and rotting badly.

“All of this means that the trees are in a bad way and need to be felled.”

Trust rangers completed a high-level survey of the trees to ensure there were no bats nesting, so that work could commence yesterday.

Crathes Castle Property Manager, James Henderson, said: “Of course, it is very sad to see these old friends go. They have been at Crathes for so many years.

“Once the trees have been felled, the wood will be used for a variety of purposes – some will go to Mar Lodge for use in its biomass boiler, some will be kept for use by local tenants, and some will be passed to the Grampian Woodturners so that it can be transformed into beautiful new artworks.”