Suddenly the fox’s unfailing senses detect a walker approaching – soft footed, along a fallen tree. The fox slips effortlessly into the dense undergrowth, as the walker realises the futility of his intent.
The black motionless eye betrays nothing of the fear and panic swelling up within the woodcock’s body, as the man continues his approach. At two metres distance from her, he pauses in response to a pair of blue tits above him loudly protesting his intrusion. Their 6 chicks listen intently from the safety of the nest within an old woodpecker-excavated nest hole in the standing dead Noble fir tree nearby.
Faint Calls from Beneath
As the man graciously yields to the growing protests of the blue tits and attempts to descend from the fallen tree, his eyes rake the ground for hidden hazards – bramble thorn or protruding branch, such is the way with barefoot walkers. Suddenly his eyes connect with the black eye of the woodcock, now a mere step away. He freezes in a mix of surprise and wonderment, before cautiously retreating in an attempt to pacify her. Audible only to she who sits defiantly are the faint calls of her 4 chicks that are now hours away from hatching beneath her.
The man gently eases away to continue his assessment of this secluded woodland section that she has chosen to nest in. A small island of Noble firs in the south-west of Taymount Wood. These majestic fir trees, around 70 years old (still young in tree terms), cover a mere 3% of the woodland, yet their large and prolific seeds may provide up to 20% of available calories for red squirrels and wintering birds. As a species, the Noble firs also sequester more carbon than any other tree species in the wood and are visually striking in the forest landscape. In recent insect surveys they were also found to support substantially higher numbers and species counts of insects per square metre of foliage than other conifers and even outperformed birch by 3 to 1. They also fostered rare and spectacular fungi species. Overall, the Noble fir punches far above its weight in the fight against the climate & ecological crisis.
In the Shadow of the Axe
These Noble firs and hundreds like them across the site are now threatened with felling. They were protected under the original WSWG woodland plan in the Draft WSWG Proposal approved by the community in the WSWG Community Consultation 2021. The updated version of that original plan still protects them for all the reasons explained above, as well as “living forest” revenue including carbon sequestration, tree sponsorships and biodiversity payments etc – potentially up to 3x more than felling them for timber.
However, new members within the group have since 2021 brought a wider perspective which may reflect the view of the wider community. As such, an alternative, more timber-focused woodland plan has been produced which will see almost all of these trees felled over the next 10 years. These two plans have differing priorities and agendas. You, as a WSWG member or a local resident, will soon have the chance to decide the fate of these trees by choosing which plan you prefer, and influence the way we will look after the woods in the future.