Nurseries, parks and gardens in path of St Jude's Day Storm assess damage

Trees down at Hertfordshire-based nursery Majestic Trees this morning
Trees down at Hertfordshire-based nursery Majestic Trees this morning

Updated 29 October  Nurseries, parks and gardens are picking up the pieces after yesterday's St Jude's Day Storm which saw winds of up to 99 miles per hour.

The storm led to track closures and power cuts across southern England with arboriculture and maintenance crews much in demand.

Network Rail’s managing director of network operations Robin Gisby said in a statement at 9am yesterday: "At the latest count we have had more than 100 trees down across the southern half of the country and we expect to find more as we complete our safety checks this morning."

Kent Police said the storm-force winds had brought down more than a 100 trees in its area.

Meanwhile an estimated 270,000 premises experienced power cuts.

All of London’s Royal Parks except Primrose Hill were closed after 50 trees were reported as damaged. Chief executive Linda Lennon said in a radio interview yesterday morning that arboriculturists and contractors were working as fast as they could to ensure that the parks are safe for visitors before reopening. The parks have 130,000 trees in total.

Meanwhile City of London Corporation which runs 11,000 acres of green space across London confirmed it had lost more than 100 trees on Hampstead Heath alone, with many more damaged.

More than 25 National Trust properties were closed in the South East as was Kew Garden which lost 10 to 15 young and mature trees.

Majestic Trees in Hertfordshire described the damage as "carnage" on its Twitter feed.

Managing director Steve McCurdy said: "We had a crew laying down hundreds of large trees on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but the 7am 57mph blast was more than some could take.

"It was unbelievable. We thought we had worked three days on this and it would be alright but it became apparant that it was not enough. We triple cabled some trees that still went down.

"We don't know yet how many were damaged but if we hadn't spent three days laying hundreds of trees down there would have been a lot more damage.

"This is part of the gamble of growing giant specimen trees in pots."

Many of the trees had already been sold to customers.

At Hampshire-based Blackmoor Nursery up to three hectares of one of its newly planted Braeburn orchards was very badly hit with large losses, but the remaining orchards and nursery escaped damage, Blackmoor reported on Twitter.

At Provender Nurseries near Swanley in Kent managing director Richard McKenna said: "The nursery’s a mess and there’s a little bit of damage on the site but it’s not as bad as we were expecting and there’s no structural damage in any of the buildings.

"There’s a good day’s work for the staff to clear the place up but there’s no real damage to the stock. We’re open for business as normal."

Palmstead Nurseries in Wye, Kent, lost the skin on one of its 23 polytunnels and another one was damaged and will need to be replaced.

Marketing and sales manager Nick Coslett said the nursery’s biggest problem was the loss of its telephone connection after a tree fell on an overhead phone line. It still has an internet connection and customers can email or call 07909 685725 with any queries or orders.

Hampshire based nursery Hillier sales manager Richard Lawton said the storm was not as bad as expected in their location. "We knew it was coming so we battened down the hatches."

The Forestry Commission said that damage assessments were still being made but the Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest, which it runs, delayed its opening so it could assess damage.

A spokeswoman said: "We have not been too badly affected in the storm. One or two trees have blown down here but it is nothing significant. Nothing in the pinetum has been affected."

A 50-year-old Indian bean tree was blown over at The National Trust's Mottisfont estate in Hampshire while eight trees were blown down at Petworth House and Park and one at Standen, both in West Sussex.

Osterley Park in West London has suffered "a significant amount of damage" according to a Trust spokeswoman with eight trees down and a number of others seriously damaged. The garden and the main drive was also blocked for a few hours this morning.

Jutting out in the Atlantic, Cornwall braced itself for St Jude, but preparations largely proved unnecessary.

Graham Jeffery, owner of Trevena Cross Nursery and Garden Centre near Helston in the South West of the county said: "I think we missed the worst of it down here. A few years back we had a storm iwth 127 mph winds, two of 90 mph and several at 80mph, but his one was not much more than what I would call a Cornish breeze."

In the North of the county, Kernock Park Plants likewise reported no damage.

Both nurseries prepared for the storm by ensuring glasshouses were closed.  "We always prepare, even when wind is likely, that our environmental systems are manually overriden in case anything goes wrong," said Harnett. "Mostly a case of opening screens and closing vents and making sure everything is wrapped up".

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