gaia-love, travel tales

Treeless

When Teo and me visited Poland recently we took a trip up into the foothills of the Tatras.  On all sides we saw thick, lush woodland, brilliant with the firework colours of autumn.  Villages of wooden houses speckled the landscape – most likely warmed by crackling wood fires.  I looked at this beauty and thought of my own, dear Alba – our hills mainly barren of all but heather and the monoculture of timber plantations.

Polish forest

In Poland they obviously make use of timber – building wooden houses etc. They use the wood and yet their woodlands flourish.  Where are our trees?  What happened to the Caledonian Forest?  I believe it was devoured by industry, empire and the Great British war machine.

Our trees were felled first to build wooden ships for trade and conquest, and then to fuel the engines of the industrial revolution.  Once deforested the mountains quickly lost their topsoil and became the landscape of bare rock and scree we see today.

It doesn’t have to stay that way though.  Ron Greer and Derek Pretswell have done some excellent work in Highland Perthshire.  More projects like their’s could, over time, help the land return to what it should be.  Real forests could again become thriving habitats, with creatures moving freely though the landscape rather than becoming stranded in isolated pockets and islands of trees.  People could also return to the woods, employing systems of coppicing and pollarding so as to take wood in ways that allow trees to survive and grow.  Maybe we could even build huts and similar shelters, as favoured by our Scandic neighbours, helping us to reconnect with the land and to live calmer, healthier lives…

Of course, in Scotland, the question of land use and ownership is much more complicated than it should be… but that is another issue altogether…

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