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Posted on November 13, 2011 by Ash
Four weeks ago I went for a walk to Mickleden Beck to see what kind of trees grew there; I’d heard a rumour of aspen. My route took me past Langsett Reservoir, where some pretty big changes have been taking place over the last year or two. Much of the conifer plantation on the south-west side of the reservoir has been clearfelled and subsequently replanted with native species.
According to an information board erected by the owners, Yorkshire Water, the woods are being restructured as part of the East Midlands Woodland Bird Project:
Planted in 1962, comprising approximately 25 hectares of coniferous woodland, the North America plantation including Delf Edge and Mauk Royd is being managed to help native woodland birds… We’re felling most of the coniferous trees whilst saving and protecting key native trees. The area will be re planted with oak and birch trees to develop new upland oak woodland, with woody shrubs like hazel, blackthorn, alder, willow and rowan.
I wrote a post here about the same time last year, while the conifers were still being felled.
I’m looking forward to seeing how the new woodland develops!
Larch. Whether European, Japanese or Dunkeld (hybrid), I wouldn’t like to say. I am not confident telling the three apart.
I failed to find any aspen at Mickleden Beck, but I didn’t search for long. What I did find was this incredible veteran alder (Alnus glutinosa) growing beside the stream. It is truly ancient, and is perhaps an old pollard. And keeping it company through the years is an ancient holly (Ilex aquifolium)! Both trees were in shade by the time I got to them, so I didn’t get any great photos – but I’ll be back!
On the return leg, Langsett Reservoir and the surrounding moors were lit by the late afternoon autumn sunlight.
That’s Hartcliff Hill in the distance there.
A peaceful pool on Midhope Moors. I hope those clouds lend some symmetry!
The reservoir was still illuminated as the day slid into twilight.
A lonely, half-dead birch that had once grown amongst the conifers has been left standing after all the felling. It’s in a bad way, but it is possible that next year it will produce seed and its offspring will be a part of the new wood. The three bracket fungi are Piptoporus betulinus – razor strop or birch polypore.
The birch has managed to outlive the conifers that suppressed it all its life, but for how much longer?
Langsett Reservoir at dusk.
Posted on October 22, 2010 by Ash
The Sunday before last, I returned from the wedding of two friends to one of those perfect autumn afternoons. I couldn’t a waste a beauty like that so, spurred on by the best display of mushrooms on our lawn that I can remember, I set off around Langsett Reservoir anticipating a real smörgåsbord of fungi. I wasn’t disappointed!
So Yorkshire Water are clearfelling a lot of conifers from the North America Plantation on the south-west side of Langsett Reservoir.
[From one of Yorkshire Water’s information boards at Langsett, under the title ‘Reversing Woodland Bird Decline – East Midlands Woodland Bird Project’:]
There was a monster sleeping in the plantation, hidden amongst the trees. See it?
’Twas a big, bad forestry forwarder (a John Deere 1410D Eco III, in fact). This beast transports all the logs cut from the felled trees to a stacking area where they can be loaded onto a lorry and taken away for processing.
A whole load of razor stop or birch polypore (Piptoporus betulinus) brackets jutting from a dead downy birch (Betula pubescens) stem.
Here a living downy birch grows beneath a canopy of larch. Are they for the chop too?
Just upstream of where the Porter or Little Don River enters Langsett Reservoir at its most westerly point, I took this photo looking over the tree-tops from Brookhouse Bridge. Golden light and creeping shadows.
As I neared the end of my walk the Sun had almost set, but with its last golden rays it illuminated the lower stems of a group of Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris) in a resplendent display of aesthetic magnificence. Two days after I took this photo – another perfect autumn evening - I rode around Langsett on my bike and just so happened to be passing by these same trees at near enough the exact same time (almost as if I’d planned it or sommat). I was lucky enough to be granted an encore.
Twilight over Langsett.
Posted on March 18, 2010 by Ash
On Saturday I returned to Derwent Dam to check on the state of the exploded larch I discovered a year ago. Not a lot has changed.
Only fifty metres or so away up the hill was another toppled larch that I didn’t notice last year. This one didn’t look as if its demise was as explosive as the other; more of a folding than an exploding. Both prostrate trees are aligned in more or less the same direction: pointing uphill (south-east, I think). I reckon it most likely that they were just blown over in strong winds, perhaps even on the same day.
Posted on March 9, 2010 by Ash
On the 28th of February 2009 – over a year ago! – I went for a walk around the Derwent and Howden Reservoirs. I saw something in a plantation on the hillside: it was an exploded larch.
Posted on December 9, 2009 by Ash
I spent five days last week planting trees near York on the Escrick Park Estate as part of my college course. We – about twelve students and three instructors – planted 6,000 three-year old Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris) over three hectares. The trees were nursery-grown 2+1s, meaning that they had spent two years in the ground (2) before being lifted, replanted, and grown on in the ground for another year (+1).
To achieve the desired planting density we planted each tree 2.2 metres apart. The trees were planted in perfect straight rows in one direction, but the first trees in each row were staggered. This should ensure that anyone walking or driving along the road that runs along one edge of the site… if they look towards the stand (perpendicular to the straight rows), they will see apparently randomly-planted trees. It’s all about being efficient and aesthetically pleasing at the same time.
The above photo shows a typical tree, with my boot for scale. The planting process was real simple: dig a bastard pit with the shovel (a slit in the ground, not a real pit – hence the name), pop in the tree (making sure the roots are all in order), stamp down the soil around the tree (to remove any air pockets where standing water may gather and freeze), stick a cane into the ground either side of the tree, and slide on a tree guard. The guards will protect the young trees when the site is sprayed to suppress weed growth, probably three times a year.
This was my first taste of forestry planting. I found it monotonous but rewarding. On average, we each planted less than 500 trees over five days (not full days, mind). A pro planter would expect to plant 800 trees a day!
A large oak in an adjoining stand of young deciduous trees.
This month’s Festival of the Trees – the forty-second edition, Seven Billion New Trees – has been up for a week over at Via Negativa. It was put together by Dave Bonta, one of the Festival’s co-founders. Go read!
To say it’s in the middle of a service station carpark, the tree at Scotch Corner is mighty impressive.
Posted on February 11, 2009 by Ash
A recent BBC article caught my eye. The headline, rather sensationalist for a forestry story, was Scotland ‘needs a billion trees’. “Wow,” I thought. “What for?” The first paragraph of the article, which is basically just a rehash of this Forestry Commission news release, reads:
Scotland must plant more than a billion trees if it is to meet a target of having 25% woodland cover by 2050, Forestry Commission Scotland has said.
”What is this target for, and who has set it?” I thought, and started digging through strategies and action plans. The target was set in the Scottish Forestry Strategy 1, which is the Scottish Government’s framework for ‘taking forestry through the first part of this century and beyond’. It was laid before the Scottish Parliament in October 2006. From the Strategy’s Executive Summary:
We would like to see Scotland’s woodlands increase from 17.1% of our land area to about 25%. Work done for Forestry Commission Scotland by Macaulay Research Consultancy Services indicates that this is feasible.
According to the Forestry Commission’s Forestry Facts & Figures 2008 2 and Forestry Statistics 2008 3, there were 1,342,000 hectares of woodland in Scotland as of the 31st of March 2008 – approximately 17.2% of the land area. Therefore an increase to 25% woodland cover will require the creation of approximately 610,000 ha of woodland. I’ve no idea where the BBC got their ‘billion trees’ number from, as I’m sure that ‘trees per hectare’ is a highly variable figure.
The first two priorities are by far the most important in my opinion. As everybody knows, trees capture (or sequester) carbon through photosynthesis. By creating more woodlands, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere decreases and the amount of carbon locked up in forest soils and biomass increases, thus contributing towards the mitigation of climate change. Unsurprisingly, woodland creation features in the Scottish Climate Change Action Plan 2009 - 2011 5, which was launched on the 2nd of February 2009 by Scotland’s Minister for Environment, Michael Russell, and makes for very interesting reading. The Action Plan ties in with the Scottish Forestry Strategy. The November 2008 consultation paper, Climate Change and the National Forest Estate: Consultation on forestry provision in the Scottish Climate Change Bill 6, says it best in this passage:
Many types of woodland creation can contribute cost-effectively towards net emissions reduction, and there is potential to increase Scotland’s woodland and forest area in order to take more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. The Scottish Forestry Strategy includes an aspiration to achieve 25% woodland cover in Scotland by the second half of this century. Achieving this will mean creating about 10,000 ha of new woodlands each year, locking up an additional 0.2 Million tonnes per year (Mt/yr) of carbon by 2020 and an additional 1.2 Mt/yr by 2050.
That’s a fair old increase in carbon sequestration and woodland cover!
Posted on June 22, 2008 by Ash
I first saw this a few months back. There are a fair few mentions of this thing across the internet, but most of them say roughly the same thing. The harvester is apparently a prototype developed by Plustech Oy, a Finnish subsidary of John Deere. However, I don't think Plustech Oy exists these days. They have no online presence at all, although I did find their (dead and gone) old site, plustech.fi, through the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. This is what they had to say about their harvester:
The walking forest machine is Plustech's best-known innovation. The goal of product development was a machine that caused minimum impact to the terrain.
P.S. treeblog Set A and Set B updates coming soon!
Posted on June 11, 2008 by Ash
A few weeks ago a couple of buddies and myself set off on a camping trip. We caught a train from Edinburgh to Blair Atholl early on the morning of Monday the 19th of May. And after four days of walking and four nights of camping, we ended up in Aviemore early the following Friday. We didn't take a direct route; from Blair Atholl we headed over the Minigaig Pass before heading eastwards for a day. Then we turned north and eventually headed back west towards Aviemore through Glenmore Forest Park. This route took us in and out of the Cairngorms National Park a couple of times, and altogether we walked about 100 km. Much of the journey was devoid of trees as we traversed many a mile o' desolate moorland. We saw the odd bit of plantation forestry (spruce-larch-pine), the odd willow or birch nestled in a wee valley... but the real treet came in the form of seeing some Caledonian pinewood remnants, particularly in and around the Glenmore Forest Park.
Diana's Grove is home to Britain's tallest Japanese larch (Larix kaempferi). This giant is 44 metres (approx. 144 feet) tall!
Other giant trees in the Grove include Britain's tallest red fir (Abies magnifica) - 39 metres (approx. 128 feet) - and Britain's fifth-tallest Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), the tallest tree in the Grove at 59 metres (approx. 193½ feet). An information board at the entrance to the Grove reads:
This Grove or Wilderness, set out in 1737, takes its name from a statue of Diana the Roman goddess of hunting...
After not seeing another soul for a whole day, we descended from the moors early on Tuesday afternoon to be greeted by a bit of forestry work. Some trees were being felled to soften up the edges of a plantation.
This is one of two stacks of timber resulting from said operation.
In the foreground are common junipers (Juniperus communis), one of Britain's three native conifers. Nice to see it thriving up here, as I hear it's declined in some parts of the country.
Looking up the River Dee from the bridge at the Linn of Dee, a short section of rapids. This link opens a page showing a cubic panorama (uses QuickTime) of the Linn of Dee (the Dee must have been running lower when we walked by, as the river was at the bottom of a ravine).
Scots pines in their natural habitat.
This photo was taken within the Glenmore Forest Park. Proper Scots pine country.
A Scots pine skeleton.
Posted on April 8, 2008 by Ash
Why hello there. This post harnesses the power of Google Maps to bring you satellite photographs of the Thetford (posts here and here) and Drummond Hill (post here) silver birch provenance trials I collected data from for my dissertation. If the little Maps windows below don't work in your browser, perhaps you'll have better luck on Google's own Maps pages for Thetford and Drummond Hill. Two things. One, the satellite photos are a few years old. Obviously older than the Thetford trial, created in 2003, which is not yet in existance according to the satellite images. And two, as for the Drummond Hill photos... well, the resolution is so low that you can't make out where exactly the trial is anyway.
See that triangle-shaped patchy area in the centre? Well, go there today and you'll find Thetford's silver birch provenance trial. I guess the sat image shows the previous land use, which I reckon was a Scots pine plantation.
See that dark patch with white stipes in the centre? Well that is the wood at Drummond Hill in which the birch provenance trial can be found. The really big black / very dark blue patch is Loch Tay.
Posted on March 25, 2008 by Ash
I spent the last week up in the Highlands by Loch Tay, collecting data from the Drummond Hill silver birch provenance trial at Boreland (Drummond 34). About three weeks previous to my Highlands trip, I'd been down in Thetford for a week at another silver birch provenance trial (see this post and this post). Whereas the Thetford site was a model provenance trial, all perfect neat rows and level ground, the Drummond Hill trial was a bit of a 'mare. Not as bad as the provenance trial in Ormsary (Kintyre 20) that I visited in September, but still a bit of trouble. The site was split in two by a forest road, and the lower portion was a right weird shape. The ground was all stoney and uneven, and holes made during mounding were often hidden by dead vegetation. It was a pain to traverse, and was real ankle-spraining country. Luckily no injuries were sustained, and I was accompanied at all times by my assisstant forester in case any such sprainage should have ocurred. The upper section of the site was less stoney, but was still full of stumps and holes. And the trees were planted all higgledy-piggledy! Some of this was understandable because of all the stumps and stones and whatnot, but some of it seemed a bit unnecessary. As a result, whilst in some parts of the trial clear rows of birches could be seen and we knew exactly where we were, in other parts we were a bit lost, especially when trees were missing, out of line, or just plain not planted in a nice five-by-five square!
The provenance trial from afar (viewed from the other side of Loch Tay).
Drummond Hill silver birch provenance trial from a much closer perspective. The birches are behind the deer fence, and in the background you can see a spruce plantation.
A typical view over Loch Tay from the trial (only typical when the Sun was shining!) - isn't it beautiful?
I think this is part of a ruined old shieling. There were a few ruins in the lower portion of the trial site, and I think they were all once shielings. The OS map for the Loch Tay area shows an abundance of old shielings all over the place, but the ones in the provenance trial aren't marked on. I wonder whether or not these ruins are known to archaeologists? This page at 'Comunn Eachdraidh Nis' has a good description of what shielings were.
Loch Tay. This pleasant scene was seen as we were leaving the trial site at half six on the second day, Tuesday the 18th of March.
When all the hard work was done, it was time for a little sight-seeing. The map showed an incised cross very close to the provenance trial, so I went to look at that. A plaque on the back identified it as the Fernan (or Fearnan) Fair or Market Cross. Right next to the cross a huge ash tree had fallen over, its upper branches reaching over the cross.
In Killin, on an island in the middle of the River Dochart just below the impressive Falls of Dochart, is the Clan Macnab Burial Ground. There was a nice spot of woodland on the island.
And finally, a view of the farm complex on the Kinnell Estate where I stayed for the duration of my visit.
One last thing. We also made a visit to the nearby Fortingall Yew, the oldest tree in Europe, which is estimated to be between two and five thousand years old! The Wikipedia page gives a basic description.
Posted on March 22, 2008 by Ash
A follow-up post to this one all about my time at the Thetford Forest silver birch provenance trial, replete with photos of trees and bark and twigs and stuff like that.
The trial was rife with these little horrors: common or pearl-studded puffballs (Lycoperdon perlatum), well past their prime. These little bags are full of spores, so mind you don't step on them. The spores are spikey and will irritate the lungs if enough are inhaled, causing lycoperdonosis.
A normally-green-but-for-some-reason-red bryophyte. Isn't it pretty?
A pair of female silver birch catkins. These will be packed with tiny winged seeds!
This is very strange. A twig coming in from the right has made contact with a twig from a different tree and has coiled around it like a vine tendril. Why has it done this? Is it some freakish genetic mutation? Can we cultivate vine birches???
A sweet chestnut. There were a couple of big sweet chestnuts and a few big oaks around the edge of the provenance trial. These probably grew up when the land was in its previous use as a pine plantation and were retained when the pines were felled. There were loads of chestnuts covering the ground beneath this tree. I hereby conclude that this part of the forest has a squirrel shortage, and that rabbits don't like chestnuts (there were a lot of signs of rabbit activity).
Looking down at bark on a pine stump. A few of these stumps were scattered about the trial, remnants of the old plantation. Most of the stumps had been removed and were piled outside the trial. I guess the ground was then rotovated to level it off again.
These young pines, probably Scots pines, were growing right next to the birch trial. One day they might look like...
... this. A mature Scots pine plantation, just a couple of hundred metres from the birch trial. These can't be far from being harvested now.
And today I am fresh back from another silver birch provenance trial, this one overlooking Loch Tay up in the Highlands. I shall tell you all about it in the next post!
Posted on March 4, 2008 by Ash
For my Honours dissertation, I am assessing variation within and between two silver birch provenance trials; one in Thetford, Nofolk, England, and the other at Drummond Hill near Loch Tay, Scotland. For an excellent explanation of what these trials are all about, see this page by BIHIP (British and Irish Hardwoods Improvement Programme), the people who set up the trials. Provenance is essentially the area of seed origin, so for example birches of provenance 'Eastern Moors, Sheffield' are from seed collected from Eastern Moors, Sheffield. Different provenances vary in attributes such as growth rate. Essentially, the provenance trials aim to determine which provenances are most suitable for timber production.
A typical view of Thetford 312 silver birch provenance trial. Look how neat and perfect it all is! I did some smaller scale data collection at the Scottish Kintyre 20 silver birch provenance trial in September 2007 and it was an overgrown pain in the ass, the complete opposite of the Thetford trial.
My paternal assistant with our homemade, 5.6 metre long measuring stick. Each coloured band is 20 centimetres. He would stand with the stick next to the sample tree, and I would stand back to make a good estimate of height to the nearest 10 centimetres. The sample tree in this photo is the champion for height - just over 8 metres tall I believe.
The trial is very close to Feltwell Royal Air Force Base so we got fighter jets roaring through the sky all day. At five o'clock they would play music though loudspeakers and on Wednesday it was Reveille.
Wooden poles with an identification tag are found at one corner of each plot. Not sure what 'EDC 19' means. I believe 'B 101' is a typo - it should read 'BI 01' which stands for birch, seed collected in 2001. In 'RPN 404', the RP stands for 'region of provenance' and the N probably stands for 'native seed-zone'. This awesome map on the BIHIP site shows regions of provenance and native seed-zones. The tag in my photo is for provenance 'Rushmore Estate, Tollard Royal', just in case you were wondering!
Girth at breast height (about 1.6 metres) was measured to the nearest 5 millimetres with a tape measure. This data will be converted into diameter at breast height (DBH). The tree in this photo doesn't really have a girth in the 40s - the tape measure was cut to begin at 30 centimetres because the first day of intense girth-measuring had worn all the lower numbers off!
The edge of the trial. The trial was surrounded on all sides by Scots pine plantations of various age. In this photo one such plantation is on the far left, then moving right there is a forest road, a fence to keep out grazers (which had failed to keep out rabbits), young Scots pine invaders from seed blown in, and furthest right a buffer strip two silver birches wide before the actual trial trees begin.
Posted on November 10, 2007 by Ash
Yesterday morning one of my uni classes, Woodland Management, had a wee field trip to Aberfoyle in southeast Perthshire. We set off from Edinburgh at eight in the morning and arrived at the David Marshall Lodge about an hour and half later. The Lodge is a visitor centre for the Forestry Commission's Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. We met up with a man from Forest Research and learned a little about timber extraction whilst maintaining continuous forest cover (as opposed to clearfelling). It was decided to adopt this more aesthetically pleasing management strategy in the part of the forest we visited due to its high visibility within the local landscape. Experimental plots were set up in 1998 with an aim to determine the best way to maintain continous cover forestry using natural regeneration.
Lovely, lovely larch.
Larch (yellow needles) and a pine species (green needles) in the overstory. Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) in the understorey.
I'm not sure of the meaning of this number, but I don't think it is the year of planting as other trees in the same area had totally different numbers. 1939 and 39 must just be a coincidence.
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