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I'm in a wood, a rather pretty wood. And a rather special kind of wood.
But more about that later. First,
let me talk about a persistent myth, which is that Britain and Europe
were a sort of forest. A great big forest until the agricultural and/or industrial revolution.
No, they weren't. This has been known definitely since the 1960s.
Archeologists have very firmly established that, in fact, in Britain for example,
the time when the greatest amount of land was being cultivated, yes, was under the plough
was the bronze age.
And a lot of uplands like Dartmoor and Exmoor and so forth
were, in fact, created then.
They were, before Man came along and chopped down all the trees, then they were forests.
But then came the farmers and they cleared those uplands, farmed them during the bronze age.
Then the climate changed and the things collapsed a bit
and now we have those upland moors, Dartmoor and Exmoor and others like them.
And we think, a lot of us, think that they're natural. No they're not. That's actually a man-made landscape.
This is not an ancient woodland that I'm standing in today.
This is only actually about two hundred years old. So the oldest trees are about two hundred years.
And there are many, of course, far younger than that. But still
you don't have the full range of ages of tree here.
What makes this special, is that it's not been managed.
Every time a tree falls, they just leave it there.
Nothing gets cleared away. They don't sweep the leaves away. They leave lots of the ground cover there.
So there's lots of food for birds to eat and lots of places for ground-nesting birds to nest.
About half the species around here are ground-nesting and
rotting trees are just a larder for birds,
they've got all sorts of larvae, insects and grubs and so forth. All sorts of food sources
that they can make full use of. And you will see lots of trees around here that have got...
that have rotted, that have opened. And they're full of all sorts of insects. If you knock them, all sorts of creepy crawlies come out.
And you can see where the birds have come along and pecked
and other animals have come and scratched away the rotting wood to get to the goodies inside.
So that's what the people here want to do. They want to attract wildlife.
Some creature has been digging here.
I don't know what creature and I don't know what for.
Some other creature has been burrowing here, very shallowly.
A little scrape there and another one there.
And another one there.
Another one there. That one goes little deeper.
Something has been digging here
and I think I see why.
Oops, they're paying attention to me. Time to leave, I think.
When a tree falls down, rather then being sawn down, it doesn't break cleanly.
And I think that makes it far easier for the insects to
get in there and burrow and make their little homes and feast away.
This wood has not been managed for seventy-five years.
So that's very unusual today. We're used to the look of a modern, managed piece of woodland.
And a lot of people imagine, that that's what a natural wood looks like.
And very often you will see in movies,
they will shoot a medieval sequence in a wood.
Because it's a very cheap backdrop, isn't it? And people will say:
"Oh, well, there you go - it's a wood. Of course it's all authentic."
Botanists might spot that they've got: "Hang on..."
"...are those horse-chestnut trees? Is that sycamore? Are those rhododendrons?"
Yes, those are rhododendrons.
And so they'll, you know, spot these species that shouldn't be there.
if it's meant to be England in 1320.
But people generally accept a wood. "Oh, that's authentic. It's a wood." But
a medieval wood would have looked different. Would it have looked like this? Generally, no.
Because this is an unmanaged wood. And
medieval woods were far more managed than we are used to woods being today.
Every village would have clumps of woodland around it
and those were extensions of the farms, or the gardens if you like.
They were farming wood. They were farming timber. They were gardening
the woods for all sorts of wild plants...
I shouldn't call them wild I suppose.
All sorts of plants they would use for various uses in the home, herbs and so forth...
but principally timber.
And they would want a variety of species of tree, and they would want trees to grow straight,
or grow crooked, because they wanted bits of wood to grow in various shapes.
And they would also coppice a lot.
Coppicing is something, that is very common today.
But in the medieval period it was very common.
You cut a tree in such a way as to encourage it to grow long thin straight poles
and then you harvest those poles and you've got long thin straight things
in order to weave together, to make wattle and daub walls and wicker fencing and so forth.
We don't make houses out of wattle and daub any more, so we have no call for coppicing.
But that was very common in the medieval period.
If browsing animals eating the leaves would be a problem, as it often was,
then another option was pollarding, where you cut the tree higher up,
but it meant that you needed a ladder to harvest the poles.
Today you can often see old trees, that were once pollarded,
but then were left to keep growing.
So a medieval wood would have been far more garden-like.
People needed to get into the wood and get the stuff... get the wood out of the wood.
Get the timber out of the wood. For instance...
They're fuelling their homes with wood, so they'll need to get carts in and out
and get access to all the trees. So they are going to clear away a lot of the ground cover.
This however, is quite a different look. This is more primeval.
This forest has been deliberately neglected for seventy-five years.
That's not enough time really, for this to reach a perfect equilibrium.
We haven't got to, what some people would call, 'climax vegetation' yet.
Although, as a lot of biologists will tell you, there's no such thing exactly as 'climax vegetation'.
The climate is constantly changing.
There is no perfectly stable state, which any forest might reach. But
this is something close to what an unmanaged woodland,
that has been unmanaged for ever, would look like.
Another thing you'll find in a forest such as this is some really funky fungi.
"Am I funky?"
"Oh, can I be funky too?"
"Are we funky?"
"We are funky!"
Yes, yes. You are all funky fungi.
"I'm not funky."
One thing, that mankind has been doing for a very long time, is burning down woods like this.
Yes, those guardians of nature - hunters-gatherers
have been burning woods like this for their own convenience.
You see, it's actually quite difficult to spot the game, and it's quite difficult to chase after the game,
if you've got so much dead wood and undergrowth and so forth.
Plus, a lot of what does grow here is bracken.
And not many things like eating this.
What's better, is to have a much clearer area, so you can see the game
and chase the game somewhat more easily. And there are loads of new, young, tender shoots coming through
for them to eat. So what you do? Well, you set a fire that burns away all the undergrowth.
A lot of the larger trees might survive, but the smaller ones will go.
And then you create clearings, and sunlight gets to those clearings
and the ash acts as a very effective fertiliser and new shoots burst through.
And the deer come along and go, "Oh, look at all this lovely food!"
"It's so easy for me to get to, and - oh dear! I seem to have been shot by a hunter-gatherer."
So there you go. Mankind has been manipulating the forest environment for millennia.
Subs by Ivan Rezny
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Forests in the olden days

99 タグ追加 保存
sunny 2019 年 9 月 10 日 に公開
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