I wood if I could

Many people think our work is timber production. That’s true – but it's only part of the story. We also develop renewable energy schemes, create and maintain trails and visitor facilities and conserve habitats, wildlife and archaeological treasures.

Forestry and Land Scotland

This is what Scotland's agency for woodland has to say about its' work and it's a nice idea - words like 'sustainable' and 'conservation' crop up with alarming regularity on the website, often featuring pictures of sparkling forest groves, red squirrels attempting to look cute and Bearded tits (no, not the flying kind - I mean the other kind).

So it was with some dismay that I recently found myself in what seemed to be a war zone of blasted forest complete with trenches and craters but was in fact Forestry and Land Scotland's attempt at 'sustainable forestry'. My walk had started reasonably well, following a gravelly forestry road as it wound its' way a couple of miles from our famous Beaver Trail. At some point the track stopped but a small incline offered an alternative route upwards and this I followed before dropping steeply into dense, dark conifers. Here was a whole different world, eerie and silent. Still pools of crystal water appeared through the dim light and tracks disappeared further into the trees. I felt that if I followed them I might discover a lost world of fantastic beasts or a troop of travelling hobbits - it was that kind of place.

In truth it was a little unnerving; the complete stillness, the whole sense of being in a place out of our time, was at once mesmerising and scary. I swear that I could almost hear the stamp of a centaur...

So being of a careful disposition I decided to take the track leading upwards where a slightly brighter shade indicated a clearing.

And this is where the fairytale ends, I'm afraid, because it looked like (and please forgive the continued Middle-Earth analogies) the Uruk-Hai had already got there.

If you have somehow been hiding in a small, bricked-up cave in Nepal for the last 20 years and don't know anything about the fictional Middle-Earth, then too bad.

Back in the real world, I stumbled out of the dreamy forest and tried to make sense of the destruction before me.

The Enchanted Forest of Blitzonia

The trees, obviously, had gone, replaced with whitened stumps, twigs and other bits of tree that FALS didn't want, which was quite a lot. Running the length of once was a densely wooded area was a track gouged out by some piece of fearsome machinery. It wasn't carefully carved out, you understand. Instead it was as if a, presumably weighty, piece of equipment had been driven straight through the trees, crushing them down. Tree stumps still poked through this track which in places was gouged about a metre deep. The whitened remains of shattered wood indicated that this had all happened some time ago.

A small, sad group of young damaged trees clustered together at the top of the hill looking for all the world like the orphaned survivors of a blitz. I presumed they were spared because they were not worth the effort of cutting down. Although I didn't want to, I decided to follow the huge rupture gouged out of the forest floor (sorry I mean the track) downhill, but it wasn't easy-going.

I had to tread in the raised middle section to navigate the track because the holes on either side were not only deep but also filled with what I optimistically believed might be water. A closer look revealed that whilst the liquid might have started out as crystal-clear H2O and trickled, that was where any similarity to actual water ended. The stuff now filling the deep hollows tended towards dark brown, dark green, black or yellow; not the vibrant yellow of a golden field of buttercups but the kind of yellow you might find if your arm was hacked off and left in a warm place for a couple of days. Elsewhere, the liquid was oily-black with a scum-like surface. I felt that if I was foolish enough to fall in I might start to melt.

Dark Scum

Brown Scum

Green Scum

Loch Goo

How to damage a forest floor

And so it went on for a considerable distance, the torn forest floor, the oil or diesel or whatever the heck these fine people had deposited into the water sitting nicely exposed where the rain could wash it into the little clear stream just below. And all because of the urgent necessity of removing 500 tons of trees to be auctioned to the highest bidder.

Forestry and land Scotland has this to say about how it looks after the land entrusted to it:

Healthy habitats, iconic species, rare plants and ancient monuments all contribute to a vital sense of place and belonging, whether they’re found on the doorstep of our cities or in the furthest reaches of our uplands. We are committed to ensuring the natural and cultural heritage on the land we manage is protected, conserved and enhanced.

Forestry and Land Scotland

Which just goes to show that if you are earnest enough about talking utter rubbish you can get away with anything.

As I re-joined the road, the cracked and damaged road where the 40-ton timber lorries turn, I wondered what the future holds for us, here in Scotland.

Road damage caused by Timber lorries
They manage to damage roads too.

Because it is one thing to wisely and thoughtfully use a free resource but quite another to destroy what is given us for future generations to enjoy.