The trauma of our Monkey Puzzle tree


Monkey Puzzle tree before it was cut down 'HEADS!' That was the constant cry at my house on Friday. No, not a game of heads and tails but the yells to those below my humungous (at least 50 foot high) MONKEY PUZZLE tree as it was (I can hardly bring myself to write it)…cut down!

I know, and believe me the thought of taking down such an incredible and magnificent specimen has weighed heavily on Dan and I, not our neighbours though. As we nervously went to explain that it was to be removed on the advice of tree specialists, there was a palpable air of excitement!

It seems a monkey puzzle collects all the filth and when it rains, outpours the captured debris all over the drives, cars and windows of our neighbours! Not to mention the lethal pieces (sharp is not the word) that drop like stealth bombers.

The Monkey Puzzle tree after being trimmed Who would climb that?

Interestingly, the name MONKEY PUZZLE seems to have come about due to the following comment – "It would puzzle a monkey to climb that!" Seemingly, more true is the fact the prickly cones would have put off the dinosaur from eating it – a fact my children, particularly Joe loved.

Monkey Puzzle trees were first found in Chile in 1780 and they can reputedly live to 1,000 years. Mine was old but not that old. All these facts though just added to the worry about removing it, but it seems others close by did not share the worry!

Phew, so at least we weren't committing a crime by their standards and our neighbours even jokingly said they wouldn't oppose our building plans if the tree was coming out! So, just our guilt to live with then…

It's just so incredible that the tree has lived for so long and seen so much. I do think The Magic Faraway Tree, a favourite childhood book, has a lot to do with my feeling that trees are people too. Mad I know, but I couldn't really watch the tree surgeons at work so after a morning of wincing I headed out to buy a bowl for Twinkle (I'll explain shortly).

What shall we do with the timber?

The next thing I saw on my return was a totem-style pole. Tempting though it is to carve spiritual markings and dance around it, it will be felled next week into big enough pieces so Dan can chop to his hearts content. He's looking forward to creating something to commemorate our big old tree when the timber has dried. Any ideas?

Incredibly, nestling in the high branches was a nest with two baby pigeons. They're about a week from being old enough to leave the nest and we were so relieved to see their Mummy and Daddy watching intently. They did indeed fly down and feed them during a pause in the procedure.

They're now reinstated outside Joe's bedroom window, still in their branch, untouched by human hands. I just pray they survive the drama; maybe I'll be far more forgiving of pigeon poo in future!

Any ideas for the timber would be gratefully received; three scooped out seats for three little bottoms was my thought. Dan wants to make a table of some sort.

I'll keep you posted.

Lots of love

Claire xxx


  1. Joyce July 14, 2009 at 6:23 pm -  Reply

    Hi claire, both ideas are good but try to keep a bit for a wooden monkey in memory or carve a monkey into what is chosen to be made. take care. x

  2. Nicola Rippon July 15, 2009 at 10:45 am -  Reply

    Claire – I have been told that the wood of the monkey puzzle is particularly suitable for wood turning, so perhaps since Dan sounds a dab hand at that sort of thing, a lovely totem-type garden ornament might be appropriate. I agree with joyce that a monkey-themed one would be wonderful! And how your children would love it! Of course you could have something similar for inside your home – something like that might keep alive the ‘spirit’ of the tree?

  3. Angela T July 15, 2009 at 3:11 pm -  Reply

    Hi Claire,
    We have a monkey puzzle tree in our garden – not quite as tall as yours, yet!! Everytime I cut the lawn I get scratched by the tree so I’m not a lover but don’t hate it sufficiently to deal with the amount of stratches I’d get cutting it down!!
    How about making a bird table with the trunk – in honour of the pigeons!
    Hope your family and animals are well!
    Angela xx

  4. Diane July 15, 2009 at 8:24 pm -  Reply

    Hi Claire, Diane again, three little seats with the children’s names carved sounds wonderful.
    Thought I would let you know my gorgeous daughter who’s story I shared with you,(as we have Holland in common),is going to a residential college in September.
    A big step for all of us, but one that we feel will give her many opportunities for the future.(That’s code for trying to be brave, sniffle!)
    Love to all your family x

  5. Cindy Corrigan July 16, 2009 at 7:53 am -  Reply

    Dear Claire – all of the ideas submitted are great, but please remember to ask the tree spirits to forgive you for felling the tree and to inspire you with ideas for the carving.

  6. Claire Sutton July 17, 2009 at 4:01 pm -  Reply

    Hi Kristina,
    I laughed out loud, cos that’s exactly what I said to Dan, desperately trying to find the excuse for the gypsy caravan. Thing is with the quote we’ve had for the building works here, it’ll be beans on toast for all and no gypsy caravan for an awfully long time…boo hoo!
    Hens are doing beautifully, we’ve inspired friends and I have Twinkle pics to share.
    Speak soon
    Love Claire x

  7. Claire Sutton July 17, 2009 at 4:02 pm -  Reply

    Lethal is not the word. The guys were shredded that took ours down, but what with that AND holly leaves scattered all around here too poor little feet were suffering!
    Pigeons have absconded, so no guilt there and the mighty trunk lies in the garden awaiting its final resting place!
    Dan had a bird table for his birthday, so fine idea but keep thinking.
    Lots of love,Claire x

  8. Claire Sutton July 17, 2009 at 4:04 pm -  Reply

    Oh Diane, I truly feel for you, but you know those OPPORTUNITIES really will be there, not that it helps much I know.
    What a huge descision for you guys, I hope she settles really well. When will she start, September?
    Do let me know how she and you get on. It’ll be really different for your other daughters too. Gosh, well done you, send me some wisdom when the time comes for me.
    Much love Claire x

  9. Claire Sutton July 17, 2009 at 4:07 pm -  Reply

    Joyce, Nicola and Cindy,
    Having danced naked (only joking!) round the remaining totem pole before it was removed today, I think the spirits know I’m sorry and will whisk brilliance and skill into Dan’s big huge moley paws and hey presto… a kitchen! Chance would be a fine thing!
    I think for once I will have to be patient and wait for the wood to dry out, so when we can create I will look forward to sharing and hopefully gaining your seals of approval!!
    Bye for now,
    Love cheeky “Monkey” Claire xxx

  10. raver July 17, 2009 at 9:38 pm -  Reply

    Hi Claire
    Watched your desert island beauty yesterday. You made me laugh out loud when you were talking about having a nap in car parks when the children were babies. My daughter works for S4C in Cardiff and works long and awkward shifts like you,there is 13months between her two and when they fall asleep in the car she parls up in McDonalds car park and has a nap like you did.
    Love watching you presenting and am really glad you are better now.
    My son has a monkey tree in his garden and it is a pain!
    Take care
    Love chris xx

  11. Mary July 17, 2009 at 10:02 pm -  Reply

    Hi Claire, how about using some of the wood to build a play gym/climbing frame type thing for the children or some sort of huge jigsaw puzzle that they can do on the floor? Not sure how creative Dan is but he sounds very useful in the DIY department! Glad to hear you have a shout and scream and yes, I am looking forward to my summer holidays which started today. Working in secondary scholl with kids with emotional, behaviour and learning difficulties does mean mental tiredness at the end of a long term but interseting beacuse no two days are the same..Off to the Kent Count Show tomorrow for some country life and retail therapy.Lots of love Mary x

  12. claire sutton July 20, 2009 at 11:36 am -  Reply

    Chris, Phew 13 months between them…thats full on, mind you when I see my 3 playing so beautifully and imaginatively Im really glad the’re so close in age too.
    Also as the holidays have begun aside from the usual whinges…we can all enjoy the same things together…she says! FINGERS CROSSED!!!,
    It seems the monkey puzzles are stacking up to be more pains than gains!!! Glad I’m not alone.
    Love Claire xxx

  13. claire sutton July 20, 2009 at 11:42 am -  Reply

    Ooooh Mary,
    I hope you had a lovely time at the County show? Rain? or nice…..Lets hope it was sunny.I used to be at lots of those shows, either entertaining with a fashion show, or I remember launching some cars for Ford and we used to have a stand at the shows, it was lethal walking round in our breaks, Id get lost and inevitably…. spend too much.!!How bout you!
    Love the creative puzzle idea…Poor Dan I always want more more more!!!
    Enjoy your hols Mary,
    Love Claire xx

  14. Diane July 24, 2009 at 8:58 pm -  Reply

    Hi Claire
    Yes she does start in September, had her leavers Ball at school, she had been going there since 1993 looked beautiful in her gown, her best friend is also going with her.
    Will of course keep you posted, but I don’t know that I can offer much wisdom!
    Keep us posted on the tree.
    Here’s to the future!

  15. MRS CHANDRIKA DINESH LADWA June 21, 2012 at 10:17 am -  Reply


  16. Shane Thomson February 28, 2017 at 7:42 pm -  Reply

    I’m utterly appalled that you cut down something so stunning as this monkey puzzle it was planted long before you were born

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