Littledean Roman Temple Site

2500 years of history and still going
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“A culture is no better than it’s woods” – a thought on trees.

We love trees! The Roman Temple site has regenerated itself in a relatively short time and we have planted other species to increase biodiversity and also the enjoyment for us.

The red berries of the rowan intermingled with the autumn leaf colours, the still green grass and the moody November skies.

Trees are such an important part of our plans for the garden, this area, the country and our world.  They gather and hold carbon, they provide habitat for countless (and still counting) species of animal, lichens, mosses and other plants whether parasitic or symbiotic.  They give us material to build with on small or large scales, warmth to cook with and be comforted by and beauty whether in their being or in the hands of a craftsperson.   W.H. Auden wrote “A culture is no better than it’s woods”
A thought backed up by recent studies by David Beresford-Jones, of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge into the disappearance of the Nazca. There are a number of great articles around, one from The New Scientist is no exception.  Of course this is extreme and I am in no way linking it to the happenings about us…..

The Chinese have wood as their fifth element and in the customs of  Taoism “woodsmen of the T’ang and S’ung Dynasties …….. would bow to the trees which they felled, and offer a promise that the tree would be used well” (R. Macfarlane, The Wild Places.)  An idea that maybe we have lost in the west.  There is that episode of The Simpsons where a whole tree is taken into a factory and planed down and down until a single pencil (or is it a matchstick – I forget) comes out the other end.  Exaggerated but I am sure it has some grain of truth.
Trees, themselves, are wonderful organisms.  Their ability to react and change to their environment.  Their strength and flexibility.  It is no wonder that many ancient cultures look to trees to show the way for humans.  On the site we have examples of trees that have naturally grafted themselves together.  If you climb up into “Old Jack” the oldest of the sweet chestnuts you will see a tangle of branches now all interconnected through friction and healing – an incredible sight and a wonderful adventure playground.  We have examples of trees that have been weighed down with undergrowth and the throttling bramble and have just produced numerous new shoots, 90 degrees to the original, heading up for the sun.
Robert Macfarlane writes in his book The Wild Places, of visiting a wood where
“In a clearing, I found a storm-felled birch, prostrate but alive.  It had been blown over two or three years earlier, I guessed, from the exent of the growth since then: an ordered row of healthy branches which shot up from the main trunk.”
Trees are common, they line our motorways, are in our gardens and our parks.  So common, in fact, that we take them for granted. “…they are easily overlooked, especially perhaps by eyes turned to the movements of tiny birds[.....]. Their impact on our surroundings is overwhelming as that of landforms or weather [....] only when we look at old photographs or confront the effects of a freak storm do we realise with a jolt how much of a difference the growth, the loss and the variety of trees can make” (Collins Tree Guide, O.Johnson and D. More).  Living in the Forest of Dean, it is perhaps even easier to take trees for granted.  It is an area which lives up to it’s name and it’s woods stretch for many a mile, holding boar, deer and other such creatures from the “Wildwood” myths.  To us, however, each tree is special and we aim to conserve the ones we can and, if necessary, be a voice for doomed trees that are not within our protection.
Specimen trees are planted by humans, for humans.  The tree’s status allows it to grow to its maximum and , in so doing, shows off it’s utter beauty and  grace but there is something lonely, almost unnatural, about a “specimen” tree.  Just like a specimen tiger or great bear in a zoo. Robert Macfarlane writes of his late friend Roger Deakin.
“Trees to him were mutual organisms, best understood when considered in their relationships with one another”
We plant the specimen trees and so we feel an ownership of them, even though they will,given a chance, inevitably outlive us and perhaps many of our descendants to come.  However, ownership comes with responsibilities and some people, when moving in to an area, a new home, can not handle that.  At first opportunity they wish to strip, cut and fell these wonderful beasts and even Tree Preservation Orders don’t count for much when human aspects are taken into account.  A tree near us recently got cut down.  An old, beautifully large Sycamore was felled in a day.  It was hollow inside, according to the tree surgeons and “had to come down”, maybe, but it broke our hearts.  This tree stood in a field with no livestock  or children (that I have ever seen).  The drive to the property ran along side it.  I really can’t see why such a giant of a tree needed to be felled when it did not pose direct risk to life or limb, just a bit of inconvenience if it were to fall across the drive.  I am being emotional about this,  in plain terms of Health and Safety, of legal and legislation there was no choice, but it still saddens me deeply.

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Posted by Katie Wright in Ramblings and Sabren's Grove 9 years, 8 months ago at 4:11 pm.

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