Dec 08 A Christmas tree for Stony Stratford By Judith

Every Christmas Trafalgar Square receives a fir tree from the people of Norway. Market Square in Stony Stratford has a tree from a little closer to home, courtesy of SWOG member Andy Malleson who fells one from his small plantation at Gayhurst.

stonylit-treeStony Stratford is a small market town on the northern edge of Milton Keynes, which has fought very successfully to retain its identity. Once an important coaching town, it was here that the phrase ‘cock and bull story originated, with its roots in the gossip the sprang up around the town’s old pubs, The Cock and The Bull.

One of Stony ‘s great strengths is its community spirit, which is fostered by the town’s businesses. ‘Stony Lights’ is a great annual event when the town’s Christmas displays are lit up. Trees adorn all the shop fronts, but the biggest is erected in the old market square by a team of volunteers. Which is where Andy Malleson comes in.

Stony looks brilliant every year but it doesn’t just happen by accident. Choosing the tree is a serious business that involved ten men, a flatbed trailer and a tractor on loan from a local farmer. Finally, the local Jewsons lorry is summoned to winch the tree into place. Decorations and lights are another matter entirely. The whole thing is organized and financed by the Stony Stratford Business Association.

stonytree2Choosing the tree is a matter of careful debate. The trees in the Malleson plantation were planted about 30 years ago and have not been thinned, so they are impossibly close together. Fortunately, there are many more that have received plenty of light and have grown more evenly than those in the plantation. Led by David Odell, owner of the town’s oldest shop, the Stony ‘elves’ inspected several specimens, even measuring the stems. This is because there is a permanent hole in the Market Square and the tree needs to fit.

stonytree3aOnce selected, the pine was cut down by Andy and then came the tricky bit. At 8 or 9 metres high, it was a heavy tree, but the Stony team are well versed in tree extraction. Chairman Ross Ellens leapt aboard the old Super Dexta tractor and, demonstrating pin-sharp reversing skills, manoeuvred the trailer to within a metre or so of the felled tree. The lads then used their brute force to drag it on board the trailer. Using a sturdy old stump which they wedged under the feathery point, they even stopped the end dragging on the road.

stonytree6Just when it all seemed to be over, David cleared his throat. ‘Er Andy,’ he said. I think you said we could have another one for Odell’s Yard’.  Andy raised his eyebrows, and led David over to the plantation. The elves rolled their eyes. Andy explained that a tree from the edge of the plantation would do the job as the top 5 or 6 metres had grown towards the light and had a good even spread. Down came another tree – it was smaller and Andy trimmed the stem. This one was portable – as long as there was enough manpower on hand. Somehow they managed to jam it on to the trailer. ‘It takes a florist to fix the greenery in place’, said Ross, as Mark Willis (of Willis Flowers) tied everything down neatly.

Then it was back to Stony, where they waited for the Jewson’s lorry with the back lift crane to pop by and winch the tree into place, which it did a couple of hours later. It’s Stony’s version of a Christmas miracle, all achieved by teamwork and good planning. And when it’s lit up, the tree certainly spreads a lot of joy.  Merry Christmas!

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