Recently I visited Loch an Eilein in Rothiemurchus Forest for a relaxing walk in natural woodland. Loch an Eilein is, rightly, a popular spot as you can drive there and the walk round it is on good tracks and paths. I intended extending the walk a little by also going round smaller Loch Gamhna which is linked to Loch an Eilein by a very short stream. The path round Loch Gamhna is much rougher and fewer people go this way.
Arriving at the loch shore I found signs warning of felling taking place. Felling? Here? At Loch an Eilein, a jewel in the forest? Heading clockwise round the loch I soon came upon the first cut trees. This is native pine forest with rich ground vegetation beneath the trees and many open areas, some marshy, some where trees have been blown down by the wind. It’s as far from a plantation of closely-spaced identical rows of trees with no vegetation underneath as can be imagined. Why is this forest destruction, for that is what it is, taking place?
There were signs to enlighten me. ‘We love trees’, one said, followed by ‘thinning and regeneration felling allows trees and ground vegetation to grow back’. Really? How about not destroying them in the first place so they don’t have to grow back? ‘Some trees and branches are left in the forest to provide deadwood for insects and fungi’. Note the ‘some’. The rest I presume is sold. The forest is full of deadwood anyway.
The signs claimed the felling will ‘improve’ the forest. Like hell it will. Apparently Scottish Natural Heritage helped with the planning. It should be ashamed. There's no mention of the Cairngorms National Park in which Loch an Eilein lies. Does it have an opinion? Does it know?
‘If the area is not disturbed or trampled, heather and blaeberries will grow back and wildlife will move into this area’ – wildlife that has been driven out by the felling and heather and blaeberries that have been trashed by it.
To add to the insults there was also a request to stay on maintained paths to help the wildlife. I guess heavy machinery destroying their habitat doesn’t harm them.
I’m sure Rothiemurchus Estate can come up with more justifications for this logging. I’m sure too that they will all be spurious. A natural forest has been badly damaged by the people who are supposed to care for it. There was no need for this. It’s just vandalism. This forest should be left alone. There is no need to ‘manage’ or ‘improve’ it.
Having passed through the extensive desolation I felt angry and tense. So much for a relaxing walk. It took some time before the beauty of the rest of the area calmed me down and I could enjoy being here. I won’t forget though.
March 27. Nick Kempe has posted an excellent follow-up to my post on ParksWatch Scotland that goes into the details behind this felling. It's well worth reading.