what smells under my tree?

I decided against risking the chainsaw I mentioned a week or so ago and have been hacking away at the roots of this big tree. Today I finally managed to topple it (surprisingly easy - no roots going down, all were going outwards maybe due to the high clay content of the ground?)
Anyway, there was a funny smell once I toppled it that I cant quite put my finger on. Smells a bit like creosote (and a patch of the soil underneath looks a bit oily), but there is something else I cant quite figure out. I asked the guy in the garden behind (tree was next to the garden fence) if he had spilt any oil/creosote but he said no. Apparently there is a sewer running underneath the end of all the gardens on our row, but I have only dug down about 18" and I havent come across any pipes (although I did find a lot of water last week that kept filling up the hole within seconds!?).
Is this normal to get such a smell, or is there something more sinister afoot???
cheers
da.
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a wrote:

Are you quite sure there weren't any roots going downwards...
Although tree roots are not thought to actually crack drains, they are attracted to ones that are already cracked or leaking and pulling out roots that have grown through a broken pipe may cause leaks...
Lee
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Well I dug down nearly a foot all around the tree and cut all the roots going outwards. Then I just pushed it (eventually!) and it went over so there were no roots going straight down. Some of the roots may have gone out then down. I found some of the roots just under the surface at least 10m away (they went right under the surface of the lawn so they got pulled up)
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Well hopefully not! I do know that the house next door but one had a huge sycamore tree that had grown into the sewers and the council had to some and sort that one out - I dont know how far down they went though.

I didnt know that so that may be cause.

It had rained but not heavily that I know of. I guess it could just have been ground water, I was just surprised at how quickly it was flowing - I would have expected an 'oozing' rather than a flow (but we have so much clay that I suppose you can get stores of water quite easily). I havent seen it since, but then again I havent dug in that area any more :-)
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It isn't, it's just BigWallop talking shite yet again.
Creosote is a product of coal tar. Turpentine is distilled from tree sap.
My money is on a tree root having found a damp pipe joint, then shoved a tendril into it and levered it open into a big leak. You ought to fix this, probably by lots more digging ! If you feel like spending the cash, shoving a video camera down the drain will tell you a lot more, for little effort.
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a wrote:

AH clay. Dig down a few feet into that round here, and
(a) it seeps in and fllods
(b) it smells like drains.
Which, when you consider where all the soluble remains of dead things end up - in the groundwater - is not surpising.

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Different tree types have different root patterns. Some spread out, others go down. That is one reason why in gale force winds some tree types are susceptible to lose their grip on the earth and fall over (you don't want one of those in your garden).
Andrew
Do you need a handyman service? Check out our web site at http://www.handymac.co.uk
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If you say its clay soil and was quite wet, it could just be decomposing matter in the clay, what colour is the clay, is it a dark colour, take some of the clay in your hand and smell it. We have quite alot of clay that has a dark appearance and holds water quite well it smells as you have described it....
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