"So you'd like to do your bit for conservation? How about
planting some trees!?" It has become almost a knee-jerk
reaction to the mention of conservation and the environment t(
plant trees, even to the extent that it is one of the few things
the Government is prepared to spend tax payers' money on.
Given that the UK has one of the lowest percentage areas
under woodland cover in Europe, the wish to plant trees, and
incentives to do so, shouldn't come as much of a surprise.
They contribute so much to the beauty of the countryside and
our enjoyment of it, quite apart from the value of the habitat
for wildlife, that it is only natural that they should be high
our thoughts when it comes to conservation. But before you
rush out with the spade and the tree shelters just stop and
consider it'here you are going to plant them.
Destroy one habitat to create another,?
Carried to its logical conclusion, all this tree planting will
leave us with a countryside which is either more or less
intensively farmed agricultural land, or woodland. Do you gel
what I'm driving at? Farmland or woodland? What about the
"in-between" bits? All the rough grassland, the badly drained
corners, the steep grassy slopes that are difficult to get onto
with a tractor. What sort of country did you see the barn owl
drifting over in the twilight? It wasn't woodland, and it wasn'
the bright green grass of silage fields, or the arable land.
bet it was some rough grassy land, most likely with tussocks
of cocksfoot grass and lovely purple-flowered knapweeds in
the summer. It's the sort of land that cattle were turned away
to in the winter in the days when they were wintered out of
doors. It didn't matter too much if they cut the ground up a bi
because you were not likely to be going over it later in the yea
with the mower, and you weren't going to lose much in the
way of "production" anyway. Its value was as wintering land.
But who wants it'illtefltlg kind now?
Well! The barn owl still does. But he is not alone. He is just
our most favoured indicator of a whole ecosystem which
includes the skylarks, meadow pipits, marbled white
butterflies, all the "brown" butterflies, bumble-bees, beetles,
spiders and, of course, the voles and mice which attract the
barn owl in the first place. So where are they going to find a
home if we plant it all up to trees? In the first few years
will be quite happy among the young trees, but when the trees
start to shade out the ground flora all the denizens of the
tussocks will disappear along with the grass. And the
countryside will be the poorer for it. And we won't have
achieved what we set out to do which was to enrich the
environment for nature. To do that we need to plant trees on
what, for the wildlife, is virtually a desert, which is the
and improved grassland of our farms.
Of course, when you kick off your wellies at the end of the
day you will still not have created a wood - that can only come
after centuries have passed, and it is far better that you look
after existing woodland with its rich and varied flora and
fauna. In time your plantation of trees will attract the flora
and fauna that you expect of a wood, which will be better than
that which existed under the agricultural regime. But don't
plant your trees on the barn owl's patch. He and his mates
will tell you it's rich enough already, thank you!
A stalwart of the Trust's Caradon Branch, Tonv Atkinson has
contributed his views through Council, Executive and other
committees for many years and is currently Chairman of the
Scientific Committee. He is active in many areas of the
Trust's work, including that of the Otter and Bat Groups.
The Trust has decided not to issue
membership cards, because of the
expense, but will gladly provide proof of
membership to anyone travelling outside
Cornwall who needs it for access to
other Trusts' reserves etc.
Any member in the Lizard Helston area
wishing to become involved in Sunday
practical work, please call me on (01326)
561952. Work includes tree planting,
scrub clearance, work on the Lizard
National Nature Reserve and waymarking.
New volunteers are always welcome!
Martin Rule BTCV Affiliated Group
We would be very grateful for a second-
hand video player, for use at Trust
presentations, training events etc., to go
with the TV set already donated. I
suppose a satellite dish and a subscription
to Sky Sport is out of the question though.
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