Mountaineers losing their grip

When mountaineers lose their grip on reality they are in for a hard fall.

Errr – we cut down the forests a few centuries before you were born lads. What’s natural about this?


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18 Replies to “Mountaineers losing their grip”

  1. Montane scrub woodland was a feature of UK high-altitude moorland until it was destroyed by grazing and burning.
    Scotland has at least 2 organisations trying to reverse that process in places: Trees for Life and the Borders Forest Trust.
    TfL (not Transport for London but Trees for Life) is attempting to rewild a major area of Caledonian Forest in the Highlands west and north-west of Loch Ness.
    The Borders Forest Trust has major rewilding projects in the Southern Uplands including the magnificent Carrifran scheme.
    In England there is the Moor Trees project on Dartmoor.
    There are others too - the point being that mountainous areas, on non-peat soils at least, were once wooded and could be again, with huge benefit to the ecology, flood control, water supply and carbon sequestration.
    What a one-sided piece from the BBC.
    I think this idea that the "pink desert" of heather is beautiful needs knocking on the head. For most of the year it isn't even pink.

    1. I asked the reporter if he could direct me to a piece where the BBC reported in favour of more trees in the Highlands. In the name of that famous BBC balance of course. Still awaiting a reply. Best not to hold ones breath when contacting a BBC scribe even though we do pay their salary.

  2. Mark, what we have to ensure is that this planting is completed with due regard to the actual species planted. The trees have to be true native species and not the vast expanses of "Future Telegraph Poles" which are as welcoming to wildlife as a gamekeepers mind.

    We have enough problem keeping the woodland we have

  3. It is worth having a read of the actual letter that was submitted to Roseanna Cunningham.

    Better and more nuanced than the BBC summary.


  4. "Errr – we cut down the forests a few centuries before you were born lads. What’s natural about this?"

    And lasses Mark!

  5. I read the article and it didn't seem that unreasonable to me. Lots of the wrong trees planted in the wrong places is not in anyone's interests, except perhaps tax farmers (?is that tax avoidance shceme still going?) . It's what tends to happen when there's cash and a numbers target but no strategy behind it.

    Sure, it would have been nice to have included something more positive about how a more natural landscape would have more native trees, and more wildlife, more flood control, etc and not put off walkers and tourists. About how that ambition should form an important part of the strategy. But I don't see anything wrong with challenging a very simplistic approach even if you don't set out all the things third parties want as the alternative. Better perhaps for conservation interests to agree with the sentiment, that we only want the right trees in the right places, and then say positively what we mean by that.

    Why not just see it as a good opportunity to spread our message?

  6. The worst thing about this affair is the joining up of Mountaineering Scotland and the anti-conservation SGA....there will be some scottish politicians [such as the dreadful Fergus Ewing] who will jump on this and try to use it to divide genuine conservationists. The tiny percentage of Scotland [and the UK as a whole] which is native woodland is an international embarrassment. We must not let the Victorian values and lack of vision of such as the SGA dictate the future of our wildlife and landscapes - thats what created the present ecological mess in the first place.

  7. My jaw dropped when I got notice of this on the Rewilding Scotland fb page earlier today. Sadly the Scottish landscape is not unique - Iceland (some years ago there were Icelandic politicians who were opposed to a major attempt to naturally reforest the country as they felt they would lose their 'distinctive' nature) and Ireland also have (or had) grand open vistas that were due to overgrazing/burning with a subsequent dearth of wildlife, eroding soils and in Scotland's case masses of underweight red deer that kill trees and too often motorists. You can only think they are grand vistas if you are ecologically ignorant or apathetic, that's something a true civilisation fights against, not accommodates. And there are better open vistas - i.e truly natural ones - in for instance Kazakhstan where they do it so much better than us and they still have wildlife. Artificially maintained and grossly inflated numbers of grouse and deer are unnatural and inherently unecological therefore incompatible with conservation. The keepers know this, have always known this, which is why they have made thinly disguised attacks on the whole principle of if mainly via sneering and smearing RSPB, John Muir Trust etc. The conservation movement has to really take that in and go on the offensive for a change otherwise we are just going to keep getting this crap. The number of times you see images of these 'landscapes' and can't make out as much as one, not one single tree are utterly shocking. And I wouldn't call muirburned grouse moor a natural, wonderful open space either worth preserving either.

  8. I think there should be a debate including:
    1. ensuring that trees whether native or non-native fit into the landscape - rather than dominating/trashing it as they did too often in the past
    2. the state of the moorlands, their management & benefit to wildlife - possibly not everything it could be at the moment !
    3. Looking at the balance - can we do both ? and if so where and how - there are some landscapes where more trees can feel positively right, others where the big open vistas should be preserved.

    Despite the best efforts of my forestry colleagues in talking about 'commercial, productive non-native conifers', the limited planting that has taken place is quite unlike what led to the Flow country. For example, one of the larger recent schemes in what I would feel was the right sort of landscape in Argyll involved over 2 years discussion and monitoring over Golden Eagle and only roughly half the total area was planted - and there is an interesting point there because current structures make it difficult and costly to mix habitats into the most desirable sort of landscape. You are either moor or forest as far as funding is concerned - so lots of moor in what is classed as forest is lost income.

    Also, forest types should be mixed - its not an either or, and it should be both within schemes - broadleaves, protected watercourses, open space etc - but also scheme types - for example, the spectacular new native forest planted by FC & WT in the Trossachs which brings together 50 years of forest design thinking.

    It is ironic, isn't it, that the 'green deserts' so long promoted by conservationists have also become so hugely important to raptors - even the slithers that are not planted end up holding 2 out of 3 of England's Hen Harriers. Reading the daily horrors on this blog & Raptor Persecution contrasts for me with ex-colleagues in the Forest of Dean agonising over the possibility that a late running contract might have disturbed early territorial activity in a pair of Goshawk - one out of roughly 30, most of which succeed.

    1. Roderick, what you've said is kind of what I meant only said better- thank you!

      There's a bigger issue with Mountaineering Scotland, though. There opposition to more trees is one facet of their opposition to rewilding in general, esp where mammalian reintroductions are concerned. Most hill walkers like nature so it seems odd that they're on the other side of this debate - maybe more dialogue needed? Hopefuly they're not a lost cause unlike the gamekeepers.

  9. Poor bbc reporting it seems. I hope you know that the large the mountaineering community supports your work

  10. And Mountaineering Scotland have posted clarification at:


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