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Play roots

Often large windblown trees are quickly cleared up and root plates lifted back into their holes. Roots not only look amazing once the soil has been washed away; they provide play opportunities or an interesting place for people to hang objects or art work found in – or made from – the forest.

How to build

  • Retain windblown trees with impressive root plates. Ensure that these trees are cut safely and left in a manner that does not pose a risk of them moving, rocking or falling back into place.
  • Pressure wash soil away.
  • With careful cutting and lifting (possibly with a forwarder) tree stems could be planted upside down; the elevated roots create a strange canopy structure. Ensure that the planted length of the stem is at least of the total length, that the bark is removed and that backfill material is well consolidated in layers of 150 mm; concrete might be necessary in soils where good compaction is not possible. Replanting a butt with its root plate at a lower level (less than 1 metre) will produce a nest-like structure.
  • Over time, sections in contact with the ground may begin to rot. These will require regular inspection and possible removal to ensure stability.

Safety issues

  • Stability of root plate. Many potential traps (slippery when wet and eye hazards).
  • Careful cutting necessary. Contact a play specialist to help trim roots that might cause entrapment.
  • Refer to fall heights, falling space and entrapment in safety section of appendix.
Last updated: 8th March 2016

England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.