Thursday 12 October 2023

Roadside hedge Trimming at the Orchard

 In an earlier post I mentioned the letter from the Derbyshire County Council, requiring us to trim back the vegetation on the roadside path. For pedestrians the vegetation had to be at least 2.4 metres above the footpath. For the road traffic there has to be at least 5.2 metres (16ft) clear of overhanging branches.

Clearing the pedestrian level vegetation was relatively easy with a petrol powered extended-reach pole hedge trimmer. Other than wearing PPE clothing and local traffic cones, no special precautions were required.

The high-level work was made more complicated by having to allow for passing traffic (Ashbourne Road, A517) and pedestrians. The blind spot caused the railway bridge meant we had to have mobile traffic control in operation. We wanted to minimise overall traffic disruption so we didn't have a traffic light system in place. Temporary traffic lights for the hedge work would have caused a traffic back-up  right to the Railway Inn crossroad junction traffic lights. The A517 is a busy road, and the 40 mph speed limit means that drivers have to be given good advance warning of the risks of falling branches.

We lined the side of the road with traffic cones, and when we were performing active works we moved the cones temporarily to close off one side of the road at the site of work. There were also large  "Tree Felling" roadside warning signs posted at either end of the works. As soon as the operations to cut a high level branch were complete, we moved the traffic cones back to the side of the road to allow free traffic flow.  We tidied up each branch immediately after cutting to reduce disruption to traffic. We found that that simply cutting the branch and allowing it to fall to the road, even with warning traffic cones in place, was too risky.  We modified our activity to ensure that cut branches were lowered, using ropes, to the ground in a controlled manner. The work involved in fixing the ropes and pulleys at high level for each branch to be cut, significantly increased the manhours needed to complete the work. We performed the rope work using a 24 foot extendible pole to position the ropes at high-level. We could have used a "cherry picker" truck for high-level access, but that would have caused traffic congestion, and would have be no faster than using the extendible pole. We used a separate pole marked at 5.2 metres to check the height of overhanging branches.

Some of the larger branches, mostly Ash and some Hawthorn, weighed in excess of 30kg and up to 12 cm diameter at the thickest point. All of the sawing work at high level was performed using a manual 6.3m Silky Polesaw (Hayauchi). When the branches were lowered to the roadside, we used a folding Silky handsaw and Fiskars XA23 brush hook to trim smaller branches from the main limb in preparation to chucking them on a log pile for later processing.

As the work approached the crest of the rail bridge, we had to have a look-out person deployed to warn of on-coming road traffic. All of us were equipped with walkie-talkie radios to faciitate communication above the traffic noise. Cutting and rope work would be paused until the vehicle traffic had safely passed by the site of work. In all, there was about 60 man-hours of roadside work to trim back the 150 metres of vegetation. Using a tractor mounted flail was not possible given the presence of a roadside wire mesh stock fence adjacent to the footpath.

I'd been planning to record some of the work on video, but given the council deadline,  I was too short on time to set up the cameras.  Here's an after the event video: 

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