Friday, 24 February 2012

Snowdonia: The Enchanted Forest - Death & Destruction

On our third day in Snowdonia we awoke again to brilliant sunshine.  Despite the hard frost that had turned every surface a sparkling white it did not seem especially cold for there was no wind.  A walk to the ‘enchanted’ forest beckoned, a great favourite of ours for it is a magical place with its mossy hummocks, hidden waterfalls and lichen encrusted conifers.  It is a place of total silence apart from the sound of water and ravens croaking overhead.  

There is an old track that leads to the forest  made by the miners that quarried for slate a long, long time ago before the trees were grown, for this is naturally a barren landscape of rock and bog and heather and bilberry.  The trees were planted – non-native conifers – in rows so that the forests appear from a distance as odd shaped rectangles stuck onto a landscape, rarely looking part of the natural scheme of things.  They support little in the way of wildlife either, perhaps a little shelter for some passing deer but nothing in the way of food apart for the flocks of crossbills that occasionally winter here feeding on the cones.  Yet, despite all these negatives, the enchanted forest is well, enchanting. 

Not anymore.  We reached the forest gate but, apart from a few trees clustering around the entrance as if trying to escape into the more open spaces beyond, there were just a few damaged and sad looking individuals, all their companions having been clear felled.  It was a shocking sight, looking as if a tornado had ripped through them, leaving just rows of broken stumps and, occasionally, an upturned root ball.  Sadder still, the tussocks and moss covered mounds that created the ‘Brothers Grimm’ feel had all been destroyed with them.  Instead of walking through a cool tunnel of overhanging branches we ventured along a broken landscape; there was not one section recognisable or familiar. 


Now it is quite possible that the original landscape will be restored as part of the overall long term plan, for Snowdonia is a National Park.  Or, perhaps, the forest will be replanted or allowed to regenerate from self-sown seedlings.  Having got over the initial shock of seeing the landscape looking at its worse, I hope it will be the former.  The trees really are out of place here and, for the first time (if you can see beyond the devastation) there are wide, uninterrupted views of bleak, harsh mountainside – Snowdonia as it should be.
Whatever the outcome, it will be interesting to watch how nature repairs itself.  One thing is quite certain: the landscape will never look the same in my lifetime.  Perhaps it may look better?

To see more of the enchanted forest in all its former glory, click on the link here.
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4 comments:

  1. It just made me feel sick to see this...quite awful, especially after looking at it's former glory on your blog. Surely nothing can justify that destruction..such beauty before, such devastation now...so so sad.

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  2. O_o But... why? Why was this done?

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  3. I particularly liked the last pic of the wall snaking away.

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  4. Thanks for your comments. I really have no idea why this clear felling is being carried out.

    I know there was some talk some years ago about clearing these planted conifer woods because they are not native to the UK, they harbour little in the way of wildlife (and destroy the local flora because they are so dark). The idea was to restore these areas back to their original state before man interfered with it, ie wilderness and bog.

    I don't know if that is the case here - perhaps it is just that the timber, being a commercial 'crop' was ready for selling.

    Snowdonia is a holiday destination for me so, assuming I return in the future, it will be interesting to see what is done to the land they have cleared. It is far too desolate and barren to be turned into any other sort of farming crop.

    One unexpected bonus, if that can be used in the context of destruction, is that all the ancient stone walls that were hidden by the trees are now in view again. I suppose we can take comfort from the fact that we are now seeing the view that would have been seen several hundred years ago.

    Johnson

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