Friday, October 16, 2009


click photo to enlarge
It's good that the area of the UK covered in trees is increasing year on year, and has now climbed to 12% of the total land area. Woodland is important as a wildlife habitat, landscape element, recreational resource, carbon sink, and source of fuel and raw materials.

But, whilst the UK has a slightly greater amount of woodland cover than the Netherlands (11%) it has a long way to go to reach the level of our continental neighbours such as France (28.3%) and Germany (31.7%). Moreover it trails the European Union average (37.8%) by a big margin. It's also unfortunate that more than half of the UK's present woods are coniferous plantations whose biodiversity, landscape and recreational potential is substantially less than that of broadleaved woodland.

A while ago I read, "The History of the Countryside", Oliver Rackham's important work on Britain's landscape, flora and fauna. It gave me a more informed insight into the decline of our woodlands and scotched a few myths that still infect debate about this subject - neither the contruction of Britain's navy nor the early iron industry were, it seems, major contributors to the loss of woodland. It also helped me to understand the key difference between traditional, sustainable forms of forestry and the current practice. Modern methods of wood production are likened by Rackham to the growing of vegetables: you plant a sapling, nurture it until it is a size to crop, then cut it down, removing all trace of it from the ground. The older method usually involved a cycle of coppicing, where limbs were harvested from the tree in such a way that it encouraged more growth. Wood was harvested every several years, and the tree continued in production for hundreds of years. More enlightened woodland management is re-discovering the value of coppicing not only in economic terms, but also for biodiversity.

The place where I now live, Lincolnshire, isn't the first English county that one thinks of in terms of woodland. However, it does have a few spots where trees grow in relative plenty. One such, as the name suggests, is Woodhall Spa, where I took this photograph of my wife walking through the sylvan, early autumn landscape.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 79mm (158mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/160
ISO: 200
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On