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Newsletters Caledonia Wild! Spring 2000



Trees for Life magazine, Caledonia Wild! Spring 2000

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Listening to the Land

Tree skeleton

Listening to the Land - a group of volunteers and a pine skeleton in Glen Affric

One day in the middle of February Adam and I were out in Glen Moriston, visiting the steep gorge of the Allt na Muic stream, where we have the agreement of the landowner to carry out a small native forest restoration scheme. It was my first time out in the hills for a couple of months, and I was glad of the opportunity to reconnect with the land and trees after weeks of office-based work. Although the day began with clear skies, the sun was soon gone and when we stopped for lunch, snow was falling. The wind picked up as the temperature fell, and visibility dropped dramatically as the snowfall intensified.

I was entranced by the transformation of the land as the heather slowly vanished beneath the accumulating snow, and as the branches of the birch trees became coated with increasing layers of white. The primal quality of the snowstorm and the wildness of the elements touched me profoundly, and I felt a deepening connection with the place, as its beauty was heightened with every falling snowflake. Whilst absorbing this experience, ideas began to come into my mind for how the scheme we had been envisioning could be expanded onto the other side of the gorge, and also further up and down the stream itself. Then, the phrase 'the Allt na Muic Forest Corridor Project' arose spontaneously in my thoughts, and with it the recognition of the potential for this small stream to act as a vital connecting link of restored forest between the pinewoods of Affric to the north, and the native forest further downslope in Glen Moriston itself.

Where did this inspiration and clarity come from? For me, it arose from the connection with the trees and the land itself. When I open my heart to a place and immerse myself fully in the experience of being there, a communion occurs and I can 'listen to the land'. That, after all, is how Trees for Life started 15 years ago, when I began to sense that the last remnants of the Caledonian Forest were calling for help. I'm not unique by any means in having such experiences - Adam and others at Trees for Life have similar stories to tell, as do plenty of people elsewhere. However, it's by acting on those inspirations and putting them into practice that gives our work its effectiveness and power.

At a time when humanity is increasingly isolated from the wildness of Nature and the elements, I believe that solutions to the world's environmental problems will come when we all take the time to listen to the land and act on the inspiration we receive


Alan Watson Featherstone

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Moor Trees

Celebrating the wild trees of Dartmoor

For over two years now Moor Trees has been working to implement its vision of restoring areas of wild, natural forest on Dartmoor.

Chris Layton and I were inspired by Trees for Life and their work to restore the Caledonian Forest, to look at restoring areas of upland or Atlantic oak woodland in Dartmoor National Park, and in addition to look specifically at creating and enhancing wilder areas in the park. To pursue these aims Moor Trees was set up as a community-led voluntary organisation.

Moor Trees has been calling for better nature conservation, where the indicators for healthy and biologically diverse wildlife are not just the amounts of single species, but the overall quality of the habitats, and the freedom for Nature to develop towards a wilder, more natural state. In the case of Dartmoor wilder areas means a mosaic of woodlands, grasslands, heathlands, tors and bogs with a rich variety of mammals, birds, plants and insects. It means larger areas of different types of woodland, that vary naturally in size and density with the correct balance of grazing numbers.

Currently parts of Dartmoor may be described as wild land, in places where there are no signs of human activity. Perhaps this is what many come to the moor for, but ecologically speaking it is not wild, and until we allow areas to become wilder we cannot fully appreciate the many benefits to the land and to the human spirit that this may bring.

Moor Trees is also working to publicise the wider importance to the environment of trees and woodlands, as well as the international botanical importance of Atlantic oak woodland, with their rare mosses, lichens and liverworts, on Dartmoor. We believe that woodland is the most important habitat on Dartmoor. Woods and forests have the ability to help stabilise climate change, the water table and soil erosion, and influence many other factors on which we depend for life. Native forest restoration side by side with the much loved open areas of heath land and grassland could play a vital role in maintaining these rare habitats and the biological diversity of the Dartmoor. We are developing many exciting forms of awareness-raising events, from woodland walks to interactive theatre and multi-media exhibition, community appraisal to lively conference debates on wilderness.

The 368 square miles of Dartmoor National Park offer a marvellous opportunity for our generation to develop a new partnership with Nature and create a better balance of wild woodland on the Moor.

Last November Moor Trees organised a conference entitled "Towards the Wild" at Dartington Hall in Devon to stimulate discussion on the issues. It is also organising several planting weekends throughout the spring, and produces a regular magazine for subscribers. If you are interested in volunteering or participating in any other of Moor Trees' activities, or would like to subscribe to Moor Trees please contact us at: 5 Parkfield Road, Topsham, Exeter, Devon EX3 ODR or 'phone Adam Griffin on (01392) 876635.

Adam Griffin is ihe coordinator for Moor Trees and has worked with Trees for Life as a volunteer and Conservation Holiday focaliser since 1991.

Adam Griffin

Moor Trees web site: www.moortrees.org

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See Caledonia Wild! magazines, for excerpts from other editions.

Published: Spring 2000
Last updated: 25 August 2010

Trees for Life is an award winning conservation charity working to restore the Caledonian Forest
and all its species to a large contiguous area in the Highlands of Scotland.

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