Standing in the presence of a 400 year old beech tree last Saturday in a small woodland near Miserden put my seemingly rushed and busy lifestyle back into perspective. There is a sense of calm that comes from wandering around an ancient woodland and the message that I took with me from the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust's "Treescapes and Treecology" course was that we need to stop looking 10 minutes, an hour, a week a year ahead, but look instead outwards to 50, 100 and even 500 years. As Paul Rutter, course tutor and woodland advisor for Plantlife, said: "We need to start thinking in tree years". And this is one of the many ways that we can help to preserve our natural environment for us and our future generations.
Our natural ecosystems are what sustains life on this earth and without them we wouldn't exist. The message from the course was that we need to work together to better manage and maintain our ancient woodlands and the limited number of ancient veteran trees that still stand within them - allowing them to run their full and natural lifespan. Additionally we need to encourage and support the growth of a new generation of ancient trees.
And from a garden designers perspective? I like to let the wild edges creep in and this course has re-iterated how important it is to encourage biodiversity and to create a more cyclical system even in our own gardens. In certain situations the wild edges may not fit with the style or design we want and this is okay too. Regardless of whether or not we allow any "wild" to creep in we can still do as much as we can to create an ecosystem attractive to and brimming with wildlife.
The simple act of having living plants, avoiding chemicals and pesticides, choosing materials that will last into the future and that, when they do eventually break down or decay, do so in a way that encourages further life rather than destroys it. Compare a piece of wood or some other organic material slowly decomposing to a piece of plastic? The wood will attract insects and fungi and lichen while the plastic will stay exactly as it is. Tiny particles leaching away to cause havoc with our health and the health of our surrounding environment. So with every material that we consider using in our gardens we should stop and think of the effect that that material (and all of its packaging) will have 10, 50, 100 and even 500 years into the future.