So, why is thisÂ particularÂ play structureÂ differentÂ to the pile of pallets your dad nailed up in the apple tree at the end of the garden?Â Continue reading
After the Ranger’s spam rant you’d have thought that he’d have had enough of ferretting in his server stats. But no. Inspired by the popular “How you got here in…” series posted on Village Idiot The Ranger has been looking at the various things you lot type into search engines before you arrive, blinking, at The Rangers Blog. Here’s an unexpurgated sample from the last 10 hours:
… how can I kill a neighbour’s tree
rubbish tips gloucestershire
ivy how to kill ivy
how to kill ivy
copper nail kill tree
what kills cane toads?
copper nails and trees
can squirrels be shot
copper kills trees
august 2006 sunset magazine
forest ranger home …
Do you see a pattern? It’s perhaps not too subtle: a kind of genocidal tinge. The Ranger has often wondered what it would be like to meet the readers who use the various pages on Naturenet. Maybe, based on this, it might be better if he didn’t!
There was a time, way back, when the Virtual Ranger really was a ranger – complete with Land-Rover, chainsaw and radio. An enjoyable feature of that status was the number of people who said to me ‘Ooo, what a lovely job! I wish I did that.” Not that I felt inferior in any way to my peers who’d gone straight from university into accounting, commercial publishing, finance and so on; nor was I jealous of their allegedly prodigious remunerations. Still, I couldn’t help but crack an inner smile when I imagined how rarely “I’m a merchant banker” would have been greeted by “Ooo, what a lovely job…”.
These days I spend most of my days pushing a mouse, and don’t get to see the countryside as often as I’d like. So you can probably see the glee in my face in the picture above, where I actually get to climb a tree as a part of my job. Yes, friends, they paid me to do this: your taxes strapped me in and hoisted me up. Thanks! And if you want to know why, read on. Continue reading
Dogs bred to fight, and dogs taught to attack people, are a serious problem in this country. It’s even attracting the attention of legislators. Earlier this year in a debate in the House of Lords, Lord Redesdale said:
This is an animal welfare problem and a growing social problem. Intimidation by dogs is now seen as an anti-social behaviour issue.
Dog fighting is a serious issue in urban areas – a BBC report described how
Young men openly parade their illegal pit bull terriers saying how police cannot tell the difference – while the police with stretched resources can only play a limited role in tackling the problem.
What the Ranger didn’t realise is how this problem is affecting the urban forest. Remarkably, a growing number of casualties in the dog wars appear to be trees. Continue reading
Book reviews by guest blogger Ray Harrington-Vail of the Footprint Trust Anyone who has a deep interest in the history of Britain’s woodlands and landscape would have read at least a couple of Dr Rackham’s excellent books. His most famous is The History of the Countryside (Dent 1986) which gives the reader a real insight to just how our landscape came to be. His work Trees and Woodland in the British Landscape (Dent 1976) is long accepted as the best work on the subject, being both a comprehensive history of Britain’s woodlands and a fieldwork guide that presents trees individually and as part of the landscape.
After many years we now have Woodlands, part of the famous Collins New Naturalist series. It’s been quite a wait for Rackham fans but worth every minute. This new work focuses on new historical discoveries and theories. It puts woodlands within today’s context. In previous books the then current issues of inappropriate management by bodies, such as the Forestry Commission and the National Trust, and the threat of acid rain are mentioned. We now have Climate Change and the ongoing march of over-development. The carbon neutral con-trick is highlighted by Dr Rackham. He points out that planting trees cannot stop climate change, as they can’t live long enough. He continues to point out the dangers of inappropriate tree planting and the need to manage and sustain our woodland heritage. The ongoing menace of grey squirrels also gets a mention. This book, aimed at the non-specialist, investigates what woods are and how they function. In lively style, Rackham takes us through how woods evolved and how they are managed. Basic botany such as understanding roots, longevity and tree-rings are covered. The book, illustrated with colour photographs, includes the outline of woodland history, pollen analysis and wildwood, archives of woodland and how to study them, different types of woodland, and the rise and fall of modern forestry. A book well worth the wait, and recommended.
This is a one-in-a-lifetime headline. The trees of the British Isles are pretty well known, and the list of native British trees is not often revised. Now there is one more – and the new contender is a species new to science.
The Catacol whitebeam tree, Sorbus pseudomeincichii, is known from two specimens on the Isle of Arran. The tree is a cross between the native rowan and the cut-leaved whitebeam. The Isle of Arran is already home to two species of tree which do not occur anywhere else in the world, the Arran whitebeam (Sorbus arranensis) and the Arran cut-leaved whitebeam (Sorbus pseudofennica). Three trees of the new species were discovered in the 1990s but DNA tests had to be done before the species could be formally recognised and given a binomial name. Taxonomy is notoriously slow, and since the discovery one tree has died. Of the others, one is in poor condition while the remaining one is healthy. Like many new species discovered in such circumstances, the discovery owes as much to laboratory studies of the genetics of the trees than it does to fearless trekking into the wilds, but it’s nice to get another one for the list, nonetheless.
The Ranger was patrolling around a very obscure part one of the sites he works at today, when he came across a huge beech tree with some intriguing inscriptions upon it. Some were predictable initials and others not for family viewing, but the following was perhaps the most entertaining…
Disappointingly, although The Ranger waited for at least five minutes, the author did not return. Further notable inscriptions were to be found elsewhere on the tree, so you might get to see some of them another time…
The Ranger gets to hear some pretty feeble reasons for felling trees in his job – usually along the lines of ‘it spoils my sea view‘. Just ocassionally a more creative one slips through the net, but recently, Copeland Borough Council in Cumbria had a corker from the lips of Cllr Mr Gilbert Scurrah (pictured), the Conservative member for Millom Without.
Mr Scurrah produced this remarkable argument during a planning meeting when Copeland Borough Council approved plans for eight new sheltered homes to be built, at the cost of 16 mature trees used by nesting birds. He said:
“With avian flu, we should be having them out.”
This is exactly the kind of over-reaction that could really mean that bird flu causes serious problems even if it never arrives here. It might be expected that people in Cumbria – seriously affected by the foot-and-mouth crisis, but equally seriously affected by the catastrophic decline in tourism that year – would be the first to realise that irrational scare stories are almost as serious a threat to the rural landscape as is the deadly virus itself. Felling trees to avoid bird flu is just silly. No, worse – it’s dangerous and wrong, because it sends out a flawed message, and one which could have serious consequences. Perhaps Cllr Mr Scurrah meant his comments in jest. The Ranger has sat through one or two planning meetings in his time and he knows that an injection of levity is rarely unwelcome. But there are jokes, and there is foolishness.
Those crazy Australians are poisoning trees to open up sea views! The Ranger is amazed that this story needed to come from as far afield as Sydney. In his experience, this sort of thing is going on all the time. And he should know – working on the Isle of Wight where sea views are highly valued, and trees are highly protected, he can attest from long personal experience to the commonplace nature of this fundamental dispute between trees and humans – and thus, perhaps more obviously, between humans and humans. It’s a great enigma, often articulated by those affected, why people choose to move into an area with many trees in it, and then begin to cut them down. Whilst sometimes a long-standing resident will be the culprit, it seems to be remarkably often that an incomer is the one who starts a program of suble, or not-so-subtle, tree removal. Why, the puzzled neighbours ask, did they move here, with all these trees, if all they want to do is take them down? The Ranger has never satisfactorily explained this phenomenon. It may just be coincidence, but when the culprits are asked the same question, they can never come up with an answer either. Their response, if there is one, usually starts with something along the lines of “I like trees, but…”. So why do they do it? One theory points the finger at the rise of ‘garden makeovers’ and heavy engineering in the shrubbery, supported by retailers hiring and selling more plant and fewer plants. Certainly it seems that we now have the expectation that our gardens should be exactly how we want them, immediately. The idea of working with what already exists, or of waiting for it to develop, seems to be out of favour with most gardeners. Nor may the wishes and aspirations of neighbours be a factor in their considerations. Gardening, today, is perhaps more like home decorating. The downside of removing trees to improve the view, and the usual reason for objections by others, is that trees work in more than one direction as a screen. From outside the garden, the trees screen the buildings, making a nicer view for everyone else. Perhaps a more measured and patient approach would lead to a better environment for us all. EDIT: To get a free desk calender with lots of ‘I like trees but’ quotes on (See! It’s not just the Ranger) visit this site.
What is it with people and ‘self-seeded’ trees? If you read this newspaper article you’ll read of a very common situation across the country, this time in Middlesborough. It will have happened somewhere near you, too. A bit of land is threatened with development. It has trees on it. Some people want to keep the trees. Others prefer development. Conflict ensues; arguments rage one way or another. In this particular case the land has some trees on it of which the pro-development lobby says:
…there is no record of any official planting of trees on the site and they have “self- seeded”
This apparantly means to them that the trees are of less value than if somebody had planted them, let alone somebody ‘official’, which would presumably have made them even better. The anti-development lobby hits back with this:
They say the trees are self-seeded but they are in rows. It’s uncertain who planted them but who has ever heard of self-seeded silver birch growing in rows?
So they, too, think that if somebody has planted the trees they might be more worthy of protection. Both parties in this particular debate are quite wrong. This concept is quite widespread. The Ranger encounters the misapprehension regularly in his work. But he believes that it’s actually completely back-to-front. Self-seeded trees (or ‘natural regeneration’ as we like to call them) are actually more valuable than planted ones. Yes, much more! Why is this? Here’s why.
- Natural regeneration is bound to be from nearby trees, preserving local plants and varieties
- Local trees are a crucial element in preserving local distinctiveness
- Self-seeded plants are likely to be more robust, having grown up resistant to the local weather and wildlife, appropriate for the soil, and with any weaklings already selected out by natural selection.
- Self-seeded plants are free! How much more sustainable than that can you get?
- Naturally grown plants are more pleasing to the eye, being different shapes, sizes ages and colours and not a uniform crop.
So next time you encounter somebody decrying trees as ‘merely self-seeded’, stop and think. What do they really mean by this? Are they perpetrating an injustice on our tenacious trees? What makes us think that we can do better than the trees left to themselves?