Trees and the ‘After-life’

Tree Planter surveying a day's work in the lengthening shadows of a late afternoon in March

Trees with Protection from Deer and Rabbits Planted near Gidleigh, Dartmoor

Back in 2011 I had the opportunity to participate in Woodland Heritage’s ‘Woodland to Workshop’  3 day training course in Herefordshire. Amongst many pearls of wisdom and useful tips for developing UK based hardwood forestry management and utlization, Geraint Richards – Head forester for the Duchy of Cornwall – told us of an old mentor he once knew who said…”Foresters are like the clergy…. they both deal with the afterlife”. Whilst the ‘afterlife’ of concern to the forester is a more worldly one (i.e. trees growing into a future that extends beyond that of the one who planted them) the motivation may be the same as that of some religious ministry; i.e. that of leaving the world (or at least a small part of it) in a better state than which you found it and passing something on for the next generation to enjoy and benefit from.

My wife, son and I have enjoyed watching some of Prof. Brian Cox’s new Autumn series on BBC TV,  ‘Human Universe‘ – the idea that we are “The Cosmos made Conscious” and by “standing on the shoulders of giants” it’s not just Isaac Newton who has been able to see further, it is all of us. Each subsequent generation seeing that bit further because of what the previous generation has passed on is a very important concept to put our lives and those who have been before us into a healthy kind of perspective. For me it’s not so important that there is an afterlife so much as life, in general terms, can go on living when an individual life ends. I remember my father saying that “Our immortality is in our children” and now, with my own son I can appreciate, more deeply,  just what that means. However the statement can and should go further than just family ties. It might be interpreted that what society passes on to its children in the broadest terms defines it for the future and how the next generation regards the previous one and carries its memories, learning, attitudes, beliefs and values forward into the future.

Thus we all have a part to play in shaping and supporting the next generation.

And so it is with trees! The trees that we plant now (taking into account their innate qualities and ongoing aftercare) will help to resource a future generation, provide an ongoing wildlife habitat (if the right sort of trees are planted in the right place) and define (in part) how we are remembered when we have long since “shuttled off our mortal coil”…

“Only the truth that in life we have spoken,

Only the seed that in life we have sown,

These shall pass onward when we are forgotten,

Only remembered for what we have done”

(Moody & Sankey)

Click on an image to see slideshow…

Ivy – Knowing when to leave it, knowing when to intervene
Adaptive Management and the Precautionary Principle
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