Finally a field trip to see some trees! The coast is fine and all and I enjoy hearing different perspectives about it, but there's nothing like the calming nature of a group of trees. There's something about them that lets me breathe a little more deeply. I felt at home. Standing amongst their trunks, looking up into their branches, I finally found with my people. The bird sounds, the wind in the tree tops, the way light filters through -- heaven!
This week's field trip was lead by Richard Mabey -- fellow tree lover. After reading the first few chapters of Beechcomings and the way he talks about trees, I wanted to hug him. He gets trees. He writes beautifully about them and his experience with them. He tells some great stories, too. Like the one about the horizontal forest down in Kent(?). A developer wanted to do what developers do to a wooded lot and some people were trying to stop him, so before they could, he went at night with a bulldozer and bulldozed the trees down. A court case was brought that decided as long as the trees were still alive, it didn't matter what direction they took and so it was still a forest and the developer could not develop the land.
One of the first trees he pointed out was a cherry tree. It's bark has markings like a tiger. Some of the older ones were falling apart. He mentioned they live to be about 100 years old.
He talked about Arger Fen as an important place because it's in the process of becoming a wildwood. It is a formerly managed woodland that is being (mostly) left to do its thing. He talked about new practices in forest management in the UK. The hurricane of 1987 changed a lot of thinking on forest management. It blew a lot of trees down and the forest managers responded by planting new ones, but they discovered that where the trees replanted themselves, they actually did much better than the places where saplings had been planted. There's a part of Arger Fen that's managed in this way. You go through the established forests with it's big tall trees, foreign conifers included, and pass into this "meadow" area. It's open, there's something growing that at first glance looks like tall grass (6-7ft tall), but then you see that they're little trees, growing thick, tight in with each other. They'll sort themselves out as the stronger ones grow fast, take more of the water and sunlight. It's amazing to see so many trees. I wanted to frolic in them. Or go stand in the middle of the field and feel them move around me, move with them.
In the distance, stood the tall silver birches with their purple tops. Buzzards flew by the pylons. I saw a small bird hover and dive in hunt. The forest floor was looking rather green. The first shoots of bluebells were sprouting up all over. Saw some more mature trees, some deer, willows, crossed a little stream, went past a forest of conifers and then down the road, past a river that ran over the road, past some snow drops (lovely!), and to a picnic table for lunch. It was cold. My feet were frozen from the arch forward. I didn't sit down for fear of freezing. I didn't want to take my hands out of my gloves to eat. Only the day before it was sunny and starting to feel like spring. This day was gray, the sun never broke through, and it was icy. But there were frees and I was happy about that.