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Posts tagged ‘forestry’

Time lapse film of a drawing in the making for The New Sylva

April 18, 2013

Gabriel Hemery

Visit to a forest of the future

April 13, 2013

Gabriel Hemery

There remain many botanical parts of trees to be drawn and a few whole trees to be depicted by Sarah Simblet, yet a forest visited this week by the authors will be one of the last whole treescapes to feature in The New Sylva.

The authors visited Brechfa Forest Gardens near Abergorlech in Carmarthenshire. During the 1950s and 60s some 90 different potentially productive forest tree species were planted there by the Forestry Commission to study how they would survive and grow, and whether they would be productive. Whilst some have failed completely, others are thriving in the moist atmosphere of this sheltered Welsh valley.

The study visit was made as part of our research for the final chapter of The New Sylva, which is looking to the future. We were particularly interested in a stand of sugi or Japanese red cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) and were delighted to find it not only thriving and in good health, but growing in a beautiful part of the valley near to the babbling River Gorlech.

Sarah Simblet at work on a drawing for The New Sylva at Brechfa Forest Gardens

Sarah Simblet at work on a drawing for The New Sylva at Brechfa Forest Gardens

Sarah found a comfortable seat on a riverside rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) opposite the stand of futuristic sugi which towered above at 27m tall.

We are very grateful to local arboriculturist David Rice for his support, and to Forestry Commission Wales (now Natural Resources Wales).

Pacific northwest forest ecosystem in Scotland

Sphagnum moss

The old growth forests of the Pacific northwest of America are home to many of the ‘exotic’ conifers that have been planted in Britain over the last two to three hundred years. Many of the species were introduced by foresters and planted in regimental rows in dense plantations, and have earned an unjust reputation among the public. The fault lies not with the trees but with how and where they were planted. The Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), western red cedar (Thuja plicata) and western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) are all examples of beautiful coniferous trees native to areas such as Vancouver Island and the Olympic Peninsula.

As part of the research for my book, The New Sylva, I visited recently a remarkable place in Scotland where all these species are not only thriving but are forming a functioning forest ecosystem similar to that found in the Pacific northwest. Pucks Glen, owned and managed by the Forestry Commission, is located on a steep west-facing mountainside, and like its counterpart in America, is very wet. The conifers at Pucks Glen were planted in the 19th Century but have since been left mostly unmanaged. The forest is regenerating naturally and becoming an old-growth forest with the four main structures found in the Pacific northwest forests:

  1. There are large trees that store most of the biomass and form an upper canopy that towers above. Their needles and branches drop to provide nutrients to the forest floor. Their living structures host a multitude of life, from birds and mammals, to mosses, lichens and fungi. Even other trees and vascular plants grow among the crevices of their giant bark, or along horizontal branches.
  2. Large trees may die and remain standing, providing a rich source of nutrients and homes for other life forms.
  3. Trees eventually fall to the forest floor. On the steep-sided slopes, some even slip and remain living; often forming unique leaning trees in unusual locations. Dead trees rot to release nutrients and support a vast range of life especially invertebrates, fungi, mosses and lichens.
  4. The forest is multi-layered. The older trees do not form a continuous canopy and in the gaps of light between them, other trees will germinate and form small stands. Shade-tolerant species such as western hemlock will thrive in even the darkest places waiting for more light before shooting up to the upper canopy.

All these structures exist in Scotland at Pucks Glen, while another characteristic feature of these Pacific northwest forests can also be found: tree regeneration on nurse logs. The stems of large fallen trees become clad in a thick mat of mosses, and when tree seed falls on this, the seeds germinate and the resulting seedlings start to grow on top of the log. From the Pacific northwest we know that many of the seedlings will slough off, jettisoning some of the young trees with them. Eventually the host nurse log will rot away completely. Often the trees nursed on logs survive with amazing raised root systems; indicating where the nurse log once nurtured the tree when younger. Currently none of the logs at Pucks Glen are at this stage but some of the trees regenerating on nurse logs now reach 2m in height. Below are a few photos of the nurse logs at Pucks Glen.

Check out my tree photography blog at to see details about these and many more photographs of the trees and forest at Pucks Glen.

Woodland biosecurity – a simple guide

November 11, 2012

Gabriel Hemery

Brushing boots to disinfect and sterilise

Biosecurity – preventing the introduction and spread of harmful organisms – is big news at long last! The arrival of Chalara fraxinea in Britain has brought this important issue to the fore. However, I found it difficult to find simple guidance on the steps we should take when visiting or working in woodlands, or with individual trees in our trees and cities. Many of the record number of readers of this blog over the last week have found it after using searches such as:

“what should I do if I find Chalara fraxinea?”
“how do I clean my boots?”

While we wait for more detailed specific advice to come from scientists and Government officials in relation to Chalara fraxinea it would be prudent to follow the protocols developed to minimise the spread of another pathogen; Phytophthora. So my first recommendation is to visit the Forestry Commission’s webpage on Biosecurity Measures, which includes the advice currently given to all Forestry Commission staff for their routine visits to woodlands in a handy pdf guide.

I have put together the following simple guide on woodland biosecurity.

Biosecurity behaviour

Brushing boots to disinfect and sterilise

Brushing boots to disinfect and sterilise

  • Clean your footwear after visiting a woodland. Wear Wellington boots, as these are easier to clean thoroughly. To do this effectively you must remove first all soil and leaf litter from your soles. You will need water and a stiff hand brush.
  • If you have been to a high risk site apply a detergent to sterilise them, although it is good practice after all visits.
  • Sterilise your tools. Be careful that the chemicals you use do not harm trees (or other wildlife). Read more about sterilising forestry and woodland tools.
  • If you drive into a woodland, even on a road, wash your tyres to remove soil and leaf litter.

Biosecurity personal kit

Spraying boots to sterilise with Propeller disinfectant

Spraying boots to sterilise with Propeller disinfectant, after they have been brushed to remove soil

The most common question I’m asked is what chemical should I use to sterilise or disinfect. The one recommended, or at least adopted, by the Forestry Commission currently is Propellar™. This is available only directly from one supplier (see below) and must be ordered wholesale in 12×1ltr containers as a minimum order. I was amazed when I searched the websites of two of the major forestry and arboricultural supply companies that neither had any disinfection chemicals listed. This is really shocking! Try it yourself. Go to and enter a search string that allows you to search within a certain website (you will need to know the url of the forestry/arb supplier): try “ disinfectant sterilise” [replace the url with the supplier’s]. I’d be happy to be proven wrong but I’ve not found one yet that came up with any goods.

  • Propellar spray to sterilise forestry equipment

    Propellar spray to sterilise forestry equipment

    Propellar™ – chemical to sterilise footwear and equipment (always read the Health & Safety label). The supplier for the disinfectant Propellar™ is:

    Evans Chemical Supplies,
    18B Barncoose Industrial Estate
    TR15 3RX.
    Tel. 01209 213643
    Email: Evans Chemicals

  • handbrush – to remove soil from boots
  • disposable gloves – protection from chemicals used
  • safety goggles – protection from chemicals used
  • water container (e.g. 5L for personal/15L for groups) – to carry water in vehicle for cleaning after visit
  • airtight storage container – to hold brush and chemicals
  • soap and towels – to wash hands
  • bags – to dispose of material
  • storage box – to hold all biosecurity items together

If you have advice born from experience or other comments then I would be pleased to hear from you. Use the Comment box then you can share your experiences with other readers.

Finally, this advice can be followed by woodland owners, arboriculturists, foresters and anyone who accesses woodland regularly. Whether it is practicable or feasible for the average member of the public to adopt these measures is doubtful. Nonetheless, we can lead by example and on high risk sites or those with special high value (e.g. ancient trees or important habitats) particularly, it may be possible to erect signage or equipment to encourage visitors to undertake simple biosecurity measures.

Gabriel Hemery

Further Information

Deep in close-to-nature forestry

October 4, 2012

Gabriel Hemery

Trees are in our blood

July 4, 2012

Gabriel Hemery

Our Forests member Jonathon Porritt, explains why he thinks it is that we love our forests and trees so much we are willing to fight to protect them. Watch the film.

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