Tuesday, 27 May 2014


It was a plantation today. Sitka spruce, SS, aged approximately 30 years old (count the whorls, but if the whorls are hard to see, take an approximation). Age structure: self sown? They were all different. No rows or lines, or there were, but you can find a line anywhere if you look hard enough. It was what lay underneath them that felt different. Under the feet of these non-native plantation (let's consider them so, as they will be harvested for their timber one day) trees. Underneath the blanket of old needles that suppressed all growth and gave the air a clammy, heavy feel. Underneath this lay a ghost of a forest. 
The oldest of forests - the Ancient Woodland of Great Britain (classified as an area of land which has been continuously wooded since the first definitive maps were made: 1750 in Scotland and 1600 in England in Wales), lay underneath this bully of forests, lay quietly degrading. Old stumps, hardwood clearly, slowly decayed as they sat, squat, within the earth. The Sitka pushed upwards, 20m and more, and the oaks, the ash, the birch and the rowan retreated slowly into the ground. 
Decay was slow: with the demise of the natural woodland so too had fled the natural components of the ancient forest. The mosses even were shaded out. The Sitka were close enough to cut out enough sunlight to allow anything in the understory to survive. Mosses, supernatural as they may appear, need light, as we all do, to live their lives. 
The ghost forest sat quietly for a huge length of time. Unnoticed, until this day, visited by the two of us, and it was found and appreciated for its truth. It's strange this designation. For due to this site being constantly wooded since at least 1750, it has made this most modern of forests - single species, alien, plantation - an ancient woodland also. 

Monday, 26 May 2014

Silence is Golden?

It's been almost a month since I last posted. And what a month it has been!

I got offered an absolute dream of a job a wee while ago, and that just set me onto a chain of good events. In addition to that, I've also recently started volunteering at the local Rainbows branch - the 5-7 year old version of Guides and Brownies.

I started this for several reasons. Firstly, I am really interested, and becoming more so, in sharing the natural world with others. My work as a focaliser for Trees for Life is part of this, but for the younger group the Rainbows covers this nicely. I'm planning an informal Bioblitz with them in the school grounds this Thursday. The kids are great. Due to other commitments I've only been able to attend one meeting (apart from when I had some of them over to see the lambing shed), but they are bright, curious and entirely without suspicion. I think we become very used to having to justify ourselves to everyone we meet on a daily basis, that just to be accepted without question is very refreshing and very lovely.
Secondly, I felt like I needed more experience in working with kids, never having done so before. Turns out, it's not that tricky, but it's very very rewarding!

The second thing that happened is that forest man and I took a trip to Kintyre to see the beavers and then took a ferry over to Islay. I want to write about this on a separate post, as the entire trip was just out of this world. I had a wonderful time, and that deserves a post all of its own!

Not long after that I was heading out to Spain to house- and dog-sit for the people that I woofed for in January. This, again, was wonderful. I spent 12 days there, and it was just heaven. Absolutely perfect. The garden is producing so much produce at the moment, and it was lovely to see the things that I had planted in January now producing. And being able to taste it all was smashing!
I was looking after four dogs, a husky, a collie-cross, a collie-sized perky almost terrier and a (very) large 1 year old. Most of these dogs are a mix of breed, and their parentage would be very hard to determine! Serena, the large one, is, I think, a mix of all the large, skinny breeds you can think of. She's lovely, very good natured, but a bit unaware of how big she is! They were smashing though. They all kept an eye on each other and on me and made sure that the gang were all together. I really enjoyed looking after them, and my one regret is not getting a photo of all four of them sitting in the back of the pick-up. Talk about a squeeze!
I also looked after the 12 cats, the 5 hens and the cockerel. And me and the other woofer, Sion, looked after the garden too. We did manage to fit in a wee trip to the beach, and also managed to visit the caves at Nerja (astounding) and had a lovely time walking to the nearest village, Torrox, sitting in the square and drinking beer and eating tapas of an evening. And eating ice cream!
I returned feeling the shock of the cold weather that is still haunting this country, but feeling more refreshed than I have for a while.

And then, straight to the training for my new work!
The training was located on the Cowal peninsula, near Glendaruel. It was intensive, especially because I missed the first week, interesting and fun. The other people (there are four of us in total) are all really really great, the new bosses are smashing and very knowledgeable and we all got on well. The work is hard (the guy from the Forestry Commission that has been surveying woodlands for 30-odd years said that NFI is the hardest thing he has ever done! Eek!) but very rewarding, and will be put to good use building a true picutre of what the status of woodland across the UK is. I'm excited to be part of such a brilliant project.

What a month! Today I am going to be contacting the people on whose land I hope to survey this week to make sure that I have their permission, I will be practicing certain survey techniques that I need to perfect before starting, and I am also meeting with my lovely sister so that we can start making her wedding invitations! I do believe that there will be a lot of blethering going on at the same time.

This post was meant to be a little I'm-still-here-please-don't-forget-me, but I seem to have contracted a serious case of verbal diarrhea! I hope to write more in the next few days to update you all on Spook (who is actually sitting above the door shouting for food right now)!, more about Islay, more about the work I'm to be carrying out, and I have a little idea of new posts as well that are brewing. It's been so long and I have so many words building up inside of me that I can't wait to start!

Much of the love stuff, folks, hope you're all well!