Caroline Shipsey

Monday, 24 September 2007

Monsters in the Forest

For several weeks now there has been a "thinning operation" taking place in the forestry at Stockhill where I often walk. As forestry plantations go this is a particularly attractive area and is popular with dog walkers, cyclists and families. However, the "thinning", which is supposed to be for the benefit of all, has in the uninformed opinion of many of us, wreaked havoc across the whole area. Mostly the public have been kept out of areas where the work is actually taking place and we only get to see what remains after the machinery has done its worst. It seems like the whole forest is a massive disaster area with piles of brushwood and deep tracks in the undergrowth cut through by the machinery. It is quite upsetting to see, especially as I have taken many beautiful photographs there. I was walking there at dusk last night when suddenly, through the gloom, I saw this monstrous tractor with a huge arm extended before me, it was parked amongst the trees, quietly sitting there like a sleeping beastie just waiting for its next victim.

Time to investigate further - I wondered if the Forestry Commission were aware of how things are progressing and what their view is of it. They are the government department responsible for the protection and expansion of Britain's forests and woodlands. I spoke to a very helpful gentleman called Lorne Campbell who is obviously a very experienced forester. In his opinion this operation is tidy and well executed, and whilst there is residual brushwood and mess, he is confident the forest will look much better for it in 2 years time. The area around the All Ability Trail especially will benefit as the trees would encroach on this. So there is nothing more to be said - it is a plantation and needs to be managed. Every 5 years this type of operation needs to take place to allow trees to reach maturity and for regeneration. The original planting was mainly done in the 1940's and 50's with some more recently taking place during the 1980's. I'm not keen on "management" of any kind in the natural world or even in a forestry plantation, I guess I was expecting this to be more like a "mass pruning" event - ah well .......