St Jude’s storm rips apart 100 trees on Hampstead Heath in less than two hours
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
Ferocious winds ripped apart up to 100 trees on Hampstead Heath in less than two hours as one of the worst storms in years hit the UK.
Around 30 trees, including a number of very large species up to 300 years old, were uprooted by the storm between 6am and 7.30am on Monday and another 70 were so badly damaged that many may need to be removed.
The City of London Corporation, which runs the Heath, believes it will take rangers up to two months to clear the damage left by the gale – dubbed the St Jude’s Day storm after the patron saint of lost causes – which generated winds of up to 70mph.
Simon Lee, superintendent of Hampstead Heath, said a centuries-old beech tree, standing at 65ft in Golders Hill Park, had “snapped like a matchstick” in the winds.
He said: “These are the defining trees of the Heath, they add to the character so it’s very sad to see old trees like that come down. The big issue for us is hanging branches in the trees because that’s what presents the risks when we have more winds.
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“We are advising people stay to the main paths because it’s going to take us a little while to get into the main body of the Heath to get rid of damaged trees.”
The damage inflicted on the Heath by Monday’s storm is dwarfed by the carnage left by the Great Storm of 1987 – the last major storm to have hit the UK – which destroyed up to 1,000 of the Heath’s trees.
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Mr Lee, who has worked on the Heath for 12 years, said of Monday’s storm: “It’s the worst damage I’ve seen in my time on the Heath, but it’s not comparable to 1987. However, a storm like this allows Mother Nature to shed light and allows new things to grow, and that’s all part of forest progression.”
Following the freak weather, a large poplar tree on the Heath was blown onto the sports hall of William Ellis School, in Highgate Road, Dartmouth Park.
The City of London Corporation insists every fallen and damaged tree on the Heath will remain on the site.
Highgate Wood was closed until Wednesday as around 50 damaged trees were deemed a danger to the public.
Hampstead Garden Suburb was also badly hit by the storm, with trees and branches coming down in Corringham Road, Ingram Avenue, Wildwood Road and Northway.