My studio window looks out onto a mature woodland on the Glenferness estate. About 10 metres away is an oak tree that must be easily about 300 years old. Since moving here I have removed from around this tree the detritus of 150 years of human presence in this village. Bikes, buckets, bottles and bits of cars are just a few of the items. The hardest parts to deal with (like wire fencing) Ive piled up and covered with branches and leaves in the hope that it becomes ‘habitat’. I now see wrens using it for sure.
I’ve also cleared nettles and bracken from around the tree and through the nearby woodland and my neighbour has removed some dangerous trees caused by two severe winters. The reward for this labour is a carpet of wild flowers of Bugle and Anemone, Speedwell and Dog violets, Buttercup and Wintergreen. This procession of flowers is just fantastic.
Does this matter to the old Oak tree or its younger neighbours of Ash, Birch and Elder? unlikely. But my kids play there on the swings I’ve hung from its ancient branches and they know its been there longer than the village and despite its age will probably outlive us. That I have intervened does matter to us. My children know the names we call these things and what they can eat (the Elders are still flowering here now) and what they should not. They know they can walk through this place without fear, though they know there are Adders here. (hey there goes a Wren).
Wildness. For all the arguments about what is managed and what is self-willed, the oak tree is still here and my children appreciate it and the carpet of wild flowers I have given space to. Is there any difference?
200 metres down the hill. nobody goes there. It is like the lost world. Deep in the channel cut by the Tomnarrich Burn, fallen trees and ferns are safe shady places for wild things to flourish.
On many occasions I have cut my way through shoulder high vegetation to the Findhorn river criss-crossing the burn dwarfed by the ravine, its trees and its silent burble and rustling, my heart in my mouth. And sitting on a fallen moss and fungus covered Birch in that ‘lost world’, I tilt my head back and back to try guess the age of the Douglas Fir growing there.
My Masters studies are finished. I got a distinction for my dissertation should you care to know.