Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Remnants of Scotland's ancient forests of oak.

This view, of Beinn Sgritheall from Loch Hourn, is most people's idea of the scenery of Scotland: a wild landscape of bare mountains tumbling into deep sea lochs. It is, however, not natural. It is man made and is a result of deforestation. After the retreat of the last ice age, a beautiful sessile oak forest grew on much of the western sea board of Scotland. It was cut down over the centuries to clear the land for agriculture, to build ships, provide charcoal for the iron industry and tannin for the leather industry.

There are a few surviving pockets of the natural oak forest such as this one at the head of Glen Trool in Galloway.

The forest floor is carpeted with mosses, lichens, ferns and holly.

Another surviving pocket is on the north shore of Fleet Bay on the Solway Firth. Here the oaks grow right down to near the high water mark.

The great western sessile oak forest of Scotland must have been indescribably beautiful.