Forest



Well, trees, anyway -- probably more of a tree plantation than a forest. The foliage in the background is larch (Larix sp.). It's one of the few deciduous conifers, and we caught the foliage at its bright autumn-gold peak. It's an introduced species, but it was nice to see some trees regardless. Forested areas were few and far between. Most of the native forest was converted to producing land long ago in Great Britain -- and, by and large, people seem to think that's a good thing. I got a dose of culture shock when one of our B&B hosts, a wonderfully hospitable older Scottish woman who bustled around serving us tea when we arrived and sat and chatted with us, told us, "Och, it's such a pity. People aren't working or grazing their land properly any more; you see it getting all overgrown. Pretty soon it will be gone back to forest!" But that was nothing compared to the shock I got when a naturalist at an environmental center in the chalk downs of southern England echoed those sentiments practically word for word. I commented that it had been nice to see some forest there, & he said, "Oh, that's really just a tree plantation -- that watershed gathers drinking water for the town, so those trees were planted to protect it from runoff. Our grasslands, now, those are a model ecosystem. Properly managed sheep pasture has a much higher biodiversity than forest -- you can get dozens of species of flora in a square meter. We've imported hardy heirloom breeds of sheep that can keep the gorse and other nasty plants in check, and we make sure the land is neither over- nor undergrazed. Sheep are very eco-friendly because they're raised by low-density grazing rather than factory farming." There's a quote (can someone help me with the source?), something to the effect of, "In the eighteenth century, nature was something to be feared. In the nineteenth, it was something to be conquered. In the twentieth, it was something to be cherished and preserved." Maybe it's my imagination, but I almost feel like this was a visit to the home of those eighteenth-century Grimm's fairy tale days, when forests were dark and dangerous, and evil lurked therein. http://ift.tt/1hHmFY9