South Quay’s sick trees get the chop

The borough council has given up on its dream of a tree-lined riverside in Great Yarmouth. Its engin

The borough council has given up on its dream of a tree-lined riverside in Great Yarmouth. Its enginners were this week digging up a line of alder that had failed due to the ground conditions, drawing criticism from passers-by. - Credit: Archant

Fifteen years ago planners envisaged a leafy riverside where visitors would stroll and enjoy the sight of historic vessels bobbing in the water at Great Yarmouth.

But after several re-plantings, trying different varieties, and even changing the soil officials have finally given up on their green dream, saying enough is enough.

Engineers were this week digging up the wilting specimens lining historic South Quay - thought to number up to 48 - which despite the best efforts of everyone involved failed to flourish.

Simon Mutten, head of environmental services at Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said: “We are taking the trees out of South Quay. We have tried for years to get them to grow successfully. Originally we put in limes and then tried alder which don’t mind getting their feet wet but you can only go on so long trying to make it work.

“All the ones we have taken out have died. We have been looking at what we might be able to do instead perhaps with some raised planters or climbers. What we can do and how much we can do will be down to finances.

“The trees are being taken out because they are dying and we can no longer justify re-planting. Over the years we have spent an awful lot of money getting trees to succeed there. If they had survived it would have made a really nice effect. We have started at looking at options and speaking to planners and thinking about how we might be able to find funding.

“We have nothing definite but we know we have to think of doing something different because continually putting more trees in is no longer an option. They just wont survive in the ground.”

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Quite why the trees failed is not fully understood although a combination of factors is likely to blame including the high water table, pollution levels at the busy roadside and contamination due to the earlier railway and port activity.

The £1.2m renovation of South Quay - famously described by Daniel Defoe as “the finest in England” - began in around 1998. The scheme involved sweeping away free parking and giving over the northern part of the quay to trees and “a public garden” with many upset about the changes.

It also involved the renovation of some of the quayside museums, helping to elevate the South Quay area into a heritage quarter and visitor destination in its own right.

In the port’s heyday there were trees, but on the other side of the road close to the houses, where they would not have interfered with the activity of the bustling quay. One plan involves keeping the tree guards and planting climbers.