A Rural Tree Valuation: Timber, Sustainable and Nursery Value

These are the easiest valuations to determine and as such lay a baseline value on the two limes. One of the 8 valuation criteria – Production value is irrelevant with regards these 2 trees, whilst the leaves of the lime are edible – the location and tree form combined with absolutely no market value negate the trees from this criteria.

In order to proceed, a few more facts with regards the trees needs to be determined, starting with a VTA, (Visual Tree Analysis from the ground).

The VTA is an essential tool for an arborist and helps greatly with regards the valuation – it is a tool to discover necessary operations and the basic health of a tree primarily. The trees vital statistics are  a necessary piece of information that can aid in measuring volume and allowing for other data to be gained easily during the valuations I am to attempt.

A regularly voiced question with regards tree valuation is relevant at this point – At what age in the life of a tree does a valuation become unnecessary?

The truth is that many of the 8 valuation criteria are simply not affected by the age and condition of tree. The trees existence and lifespan can only be assessed in general terms and as such the valuation criteria in themselves simply refer to the tree as an entity at any given moment in its life.

VTA – Ground Level Survey. Lime Trees, Duncannon, Stoke Gabriel.

Date of Survey: 27th December 2010

Weather: Dry, little wind.  -2˚C

NGR: SX 844572

Tree Ref No: SG001 & SG002. SG001 is the Northern tree, SG 002 to the South.

Tree Species and Measurements SG001 SG002
Species Tilia cordata- awaiting clarification. Tilia cordata  

awaiting clarification.

‘dbh’ in cm 104 137
Height in m 12 11.5
Branch Spread in m (approximate) N: 6.7  E: 10.6  S: 3.2  W: 8.4 N: 2.5  E: 8.0 

S: 8.8  W: 10.2

Height of crown clearance 2.1m 2.2m
Tree Condition & Management Requirements. SG001 SG002
Age class OM – Over Mature OM
Physiological Condition Fair Fair
Structural Condition Forks at 2.0m, Fair – slight decay. Forks at 2.2m, 

leaning to SE <23˚.

Fair – slight decay

and small lesions near base.

Estimated Remaining Years 30+ 30+
Grading Category* A A


A: Trees where retention is most desirable (high)

B: Trees where retention is desirable (moderate)

C: Trees which could be retained (low)

R:  Trees for removal (fell )

Notes: dbh recorded from basal area, which is raised to the remnant hedge. Despite lack of any visible maintenance the tree forms are fair and there is no immediate need for work of any kind. The trees elevated position, due to the remnant hedgerow is a limited factor in terms of wind throw hazard as root development and tree form have evolved to lessen this risk unless changes to the hedgerow were to take place.

A regularly voiced question with regards tree valuation is relevant at this point – At what age in the life of a tree does a valuation become unnecessary?

The truth is that many of the 8 valuation criteria are simply not affected by the age and condition of tree. The trees existence and lifespan can only refer to the tree as an entity at any given moment in its life.


The Timber value.

Limes unsurprisingly do not even feature in the Forest Mensuration Handbook, as a modern timber product there is little demand, principally due to the fact that there is little available to market in any significant quantity. However the traditional uses of lime wood, (as it is very tightly grained), are numerous and include:

Bast (from the underbark) for rope making, carving and sculpture, beehives, turnery, veneer, hat blocks, piano keys and morris men dancing sticks!

European Lime Timber

Despite the existence of an ‘arts and craft’ market, where the timber is often used, the price of the timber is still likely to be less than that which can be gained from sale as firewood. It is not top grade firewood yet only requires a medium drying period before use. However included as a ‘hardwood’ the price can reach £90 per m³, delivered. Before processing and transportation the actual value contained within the tree as it is standing is no more than £24 per m³. Calculating the volume of timber of the tree is possible using the Roundwood tables ‘Volume in cubic metres’ contained within the Forest Mensuration Handbook, plus an approximate volume within the branches.

Assume for both trees a volume of > 12.09m³. X £24 = £290.37

SUB TOTAL £290.37

Our first value, not surprisingly a large value, yet often with all tree values certainly in rural settings or in plantations this value is considered the most relevant for most trees. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6hoESOrmIY. With Lime being a ‘non’ timber tree in this day and age many will argue that it has no significant value whatsoever.

The Sustainable value

Closely linked to timber value, when the tree has little worth, (in contrast with Cherry, Oak, Walnut, most conifers and some other trees), the sustainable value is simply the accrued timber value over a period of time when manipulating the tree as continual fuel supply. This can be achieved either by pollarding or by coppice. This value pays particular reference to our cultural heritage and archaeological association with trees. It was for many hundreds and even thousands of years the predominant management of trees, (of course in regards the Lime, which had other suitable purposes as described above, the coppicing and pollarding were a secondary usage). The fact that both coppicing and pollarding, to a lesser extent, prolong the life expectancy of the tree makes the sustainable value add towards other values – environmental and ecological.

In trying to come up with a basic sustainable valuation method, there is (as with some of the other valuation criteria), at present no recognised or published system. It is up to me to invent one. It would be wonderful to hear from anyone who can improve, easily done I think, on my methodology and indeed also to hear criticism as to my methods. I have used online statistical data relating to the trees life expectancy and also average costs per annum in the UK for heating using un sustainable resources.

The average household bill for heating is estimated at £1,127 per annum. To heat the house using a woodburner uses 7m³ of timber per annum. A coppiced lime can produce 0.4m³ of fuel every ten years and can life for an estimated 350 years.


7 X 10 / 100 X 0.4 = 0.28% of fuel need per every ten years.

1,127 X 10 = 11270 – 11270 / 100 X 0.28 = £31.55 of fuel cost per every ten years.

Now comes the difficult part, do we decide to times by human lifetime which equals £220.85 or by the lifetime of the tree which equals £1104.25 (X2). I would argue the latter to be fair and as such will base this valuation on this amount, whilst awaiting critique.

SUB TOTAL £2498.87

The Nursery value

I would argue that this is the most used valuation in existence. It is also by far the simplest as the onus is on a competent plantsman to do the work for you. Several years ago now I worked on an estate bordering a retail tree nursery, I was told by a friend who managed the nursery, that several times a year he had to calculate this value due a customer who had been told (by insurance companies) to get a ‘fixed’ retail price for replacing a tree damaged by a third person. Of course in reality both the CAVAT and Helliwell system are used and recognised by insurance companies, councils and courts, (both systems determine amenity – landscape value, which will be covered later), but the nursery system is still prevalent due to the ease of the valuation as well as the lack of potential fees and professional involvement.

I would further argue that the nursery value and amenity value are not the same at all in real terms and thus can be counted as separate values mainly due to the fact replacing mature large trees through the nursery valuation is simply unachievable in many cases.  The lost amenity value is only regained over time of course and there should be payments awarded for this loss of amenity value whilst waiting for the tree to grow. Promoting a system that would allow for serious compensation is frowned upon often, but I would argue that this is reasonable given the recognised benefits of trees, which will be further discussed later on.

The largest specimen Tilia available for sale in the UK, (please note I have not opted for cordata but simply the largest available lime tree in natural form) were £1628.55 each measuring just over 3m high. I am not going to attempt to include a cost in the difference in height when there are simply no such trees of similar height and species available for sale. It is worth remembering that it can be possible to purchase a range of substantial mature trees – the costs of which can amount to well over £30,000.00 per tree.

Including delivery and planting the nursery value is £4142.10

SUB TOTAL £6640.97

With four more values to be established, including what I believe will be the highest, the valuation is already significant and yet already such a cost as established above would rarely be considered in rural UK at the present moment in time.

Practical Forestry For the Agent and Surveyor by Cyril Hart


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