Country diary: trees with deep-rooted emotional significance


Buxton, Derbyshire: A sparse treeline, nicknamed ‘cowboys and Indians’, has been special to me since my childhood. In fact, it has become a cherished fixture

What is it about certain trees that so moves people? On the debit side of this relationship, I know one friend who, when a beloved wooded play area was clear-felled for development, suffered a teenage breakdown that shaped his adult life. The 1990s protests over Newbury bypass also spring to mind, because one heroic figure known as Balin stayed in a tree for weeks to defend it, reading Cervantes, living off chocolate, sleeping under plastic in the depths of winter, until the bailiffs downed him and allegedly beat him for their troubles.

I know these connections but from their positive side, because for 50 years I’ve enjoyed a line of trees that run the horizon at Lightwood. They’re not veterans or in any sense special; on the contrary, they are young pine and birch, pioneer species that colonise open hilly ground. The soil below them is acid and waterlogged and so deeply impoverished that my guess is, over the decades, several shallow-rooted generations have fallen and died and been succeeded by their offspring.

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