Vast swathes of Scotland are planted with man-made forests. Line after line of fir trees standing in neat rows . They give a uniform look to the hills and glens . The mist clings to them , deer shelter in them , birds nest in them , but they can look very boring ! I fully understand the need for these sustainable forests , I also ungerstand the huge profit that can be made by uber-rich individuals with enough money to invest in such a long term venture .
Aberdeenshire has many of these forests , the rich soil of the region is ideal for growing a variety of plants and trees .
When we first moved to Aberdeenshire we lived on a brand new esate beside the River Don . The gardens were just squares or rectangles of grass with no flowers , trees or distinguishing features whatsoever . My next door neighbour , Esther and I worked hard to make our gardens reflect our unique individuality, but the local Garden Centre had nothing in the way of saplings and so our designs lacked height .
We were very alike and both disliked the uniform look of the man-made forests that stretched for miles all around our village . But most of all we hated the devastation that accompanied the logging operations when it was time for the trees to be 'harvested' .
Over the years , while the forests were growing , other trees had crept around the edges . Seeded by wind or animals , pretty Rowan trees dripping with orange berries and slender Silver Birch , with its tactile bark , had mingled with the ubiquitous fir trees . Unwanted by the timber merchants , these trees were indiginous to the area , they had a right to be there .
However, we had both seen what happened to these gorgeous trees . When the lumberjacks arrived with their heavy lorries and caterpillar tractors , chainsaws and cranes , the tender trees were destroyed . Crushed underfoot , ground into the soil by wheels , in the quest to reach the main prize ; the firs .
We often passed these logging areas and saw the poor broken branches , squashed saplings and bare roots lying dicarded beside the piles of neatly cut timber .
Now Esther and I were always involved in some madcap scheme . ( see my blog entry "The Roup" ) Our husbands both worked away from home most of the time and so we had plenty of opportunities to be as silly as we liked with no 'grown-ups' to supervise us !! So when we found out , through the grapevine , that part of a forest very close to the village was due to be cut down , we resolved to do something to save some of the little trees . In retrospect , I'm sure this was all totally illegal but we didn't think about that !!
Well , bright and early the next morning , after my son and Esthers daughter had been bundled off to school , we grabbed our gardening gloves and my 3yr old daughter Louisa and set off for the forest . We took Esthers estate car as it would be a lot more suitable than my silly little MGB roadster , we had plans !!
It was a sweltering hot late Spring morning and we were already far too warm in our sweatshirts and jeans , but we were on a mission and there would be midges where we were going .
We pulled into the forest road and followed the bumpy track for a few yards and then stopped in a little clearing . The air was still and heavy with the heat and the only sound was that of birds singing and the occasional flap of wings as we disturbed a wood pigeon perched on a nearby branch .
And then we set to our task , carefully uprooting the little Birch saplings and Rowan trees that were growing around the edges of the main forest . The ground was rich and peaty and so it was fairly easy to just pull and pull until the roots slowly slipped from the soil . And of course, we were very determined ! We walked further into the forest , Louisa trailing behind , attempting to 'help' by pulling up sticks and grass . We carefully carried the trees back to the car each time and deposited them in a neat pile . A pile which was growing larger !
By now sweat was running down our backs , I am only 5ft 2ins and weighed 7st , soaking wet . Esther was about the same , so we were exhausted . Leaves and twigs in our hair , faces pink with the heat and the famous Scottish midges biting any exposed bit of skin , we must have looked like Worzel Gummidge !!
On and on we worked , always going for " Just one more " until we eventually turned and surveyed our pile of trees . It was enormous ! Oh dear, our enthusiasm always did run away with us . How on earth were we going to get everything into the car ?
We were all tired and completely parched , this was back in the days before everyone went round with a bottle of Evian permanently attached to their person . But we had to save the trees , so we popped poor Louisa into the back seat and then began threading trees around her . We piled them into the back of the car , through the tailgate . We poked them out of the windows on the passenger side . We stuck them up through the sunroof , there were trees everywhere . We used the belt off my jeans to secure the tailgate as tree branches trailed out of the car , almost touching the ground . Then I squeezed into the passenger seat and Esther placed the remaining saplings all around me . Then we set off !
We had about 3 miles to travel home and Louisa and I were completely covered in trees . Even Esther had limited vision through the windscreen , it was going to be an interesting journey. We were fine as long as Esther drove in the middle of the road , but it got a bit hairy when oncoming vehicles appeared , With so many branches sticking out , we couldnt really pull over to the left very easily . I dont think we stopped laughing the whole 3 miles . What a sight we must have been , trees poking out of every window and growing out of the sunroof , like some mobile woodland .
As we approached the village we noticed some people strolling along the pavement . They had to dodge out of the way to avoid being hit by stray branches , protruding from my window . I tried to avoid their stares , thinking they would be annoyed and shout abuse . But , instead they just smiled indulgently as though to say ,
" Oh its those two again . the mad English women "
We finally reached home , desperate for a cool drink, but first we had to unload so that we could retrieve poor Louisa , who had been so quiet during the journey that we feared the worse ! However , there she was , like a 'Babe in the Wood' , fast asleep in a nest of branches !
Well, dear reader , we began counting the saplings as we unloaded ........ we stopped counting after we got to 80 !!! Good heavens , 80 trees to plant ........ we had forgotten about that part .
We worked for the rest of the day and well into the night , digging and planting and watering . Children foraged for their own suppers , pots were left unwashed , until at last the final tree was in its new home .
Esther and I had the prettiest , most wooded gardens in the area .
Perhaps I will tell you all about the 'Rockery' sometime !!
Well, now that I have told you this story , I suppose I should expect a visit from the Forestry Commission and the NSPCC .