School Wood Saved!! (for the moment)

Woodland Matters

Nearly four hectares of ancient woodland in the Cairngorms National Park have been saved (Whoop – Whoop!)Scots Pine at Cairngorms

In May 2013 we were alerted to a planning application that could cause the direct loss of almost four hectares of ancient woodland. If it was approved, two areas of irreplaceable ancient woodland in School Wood near Nethy Bridge would be cleared to make way for 58 houses.

Nethy Bridge is surrounded by woodland, and unsurprisingly it’s a village that prides itself on its connection to nature. School Wood is a popular place for recreation and especially wildlife watching, as it provides a home to red squirrels, pine martens and green shield moss, all endangered woodland species. The wood has been subject to many planning applications over the years and local residents and conservation charities alike are always quick to come to its defence.

We’re glad to be able to report that our…

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Many of you probably do not know that I wrote a book with a long-time friend of mine, the account of his years growing up in China. It begins before the Communist Revolution and continues into the terrible upheaval that was known euphemistically as the “Great Cultural Revolution.” He related it to me in many conversations, and I made a book of it.

If you are like me, you probably have little interest in politics but a lot of interest in human rights and freedom of thought and of speech. What would you do if your rights were ripped away? What if you could not speak freely, if you had to watch every word uttered to another person, and found you had to be wary of what you said even to many who were supposed to be friends? What if such a simple act as complaining about the heat of…

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The Plane Tree – The Most Valued, Literally, European Tree


The Plane Tree would find little competition if we were to choose a tree for Europe – a tree which helps define a common heritage and culture for the majority of European citizens. It is also a tree whose current threatened circumstances are the result of the Second World War, a reminder in these days when we can so easily forget the circumstances of war, that it continues to affect our landscapes and therefore us.


Its presence in our urban environment allow Plane’s to be the most readily recognisable tree to the majority, this also means it is a tree that few celebrate – it is common. And indeed WWI soldiers would surely have associated the landscape of the Plane lined roads of Northern Europe with the awfulness of the war itself.


It remains a tree that evokes so many memories for so many Europeans. Its dominance as a ‘landscaping’

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Is better protection for ancient woodland more than just a pipe dream?

The more people read this the better

Woodland Matters

The Woodland Trust has long championed better protection for the irreplaceable habitat of ancient woodland. It’s one of the core aims of our public advocacy work.

Ancient woodland is one of the few remaining living links to our ecological and archaeological past. It’s the richest, most valuable land habitat for wildlife that we still have, covering only about 2% of the land area, with unique ecosystems providing a home to hundreds of rare and vulnerable species. It can never be replanted, recreated or replaced.

Image: WTPL

Our current Enough is enough’ campaign reinforces the critical importance of protecting ancient woodland absolutely, with more than 450 ancient woods under threat across the UK at this very moment.

Despite resolute national campaigning over the years, ancient woodland still remains without the full protection it so desperately needs. National planning guidance, as set out in paragraph 118 of National Planning Policy Guidance (NPPF), continues to…

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A random walk along the Lough shore

Yesterday we walked a short stretch of the shore line of Lough Neagh. It was after mid-day and we needed to stretch our legs after an early lunch. The sun was very bright in an icy blue sky with just a few soft clouds.  The surface of the water was like glass.

I took a couple of photographs with my mobile phone.  It was so bright that I couldn’t actually see the detail of what I was photographing.

lough neagh 01lough neagh 03 Black trees,

a few leaves;

winter almost here.

The Art of Walking

08 on the Mourne Way Jun13

Into the Forest

Others have walked this way,
as the surface of the track
is rutted and worn

but I have seen no-one today.

The trees arch high above me,
their canopy
almost closing out the sky.

The path before me
curves into the distance,
going deeper and deeper into the forest;
another bend,
another fretted view between the trees.

An easy wind
whispers in the branches

and high above,
a crow calls.

My foot crunches a fallen twig,

and still

the quiet presence of this place
slips deeper and deeper
into my being.

(I wrote this poem after a walk in the Mourne Mountains last summer and then seeing a painting by the Japanese artist Kawasai Hasui 1883-1957). (And then re-wrote it when I viewed it on-line).