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  • Writer's pictureCrone

The story behind the poem

Updated: Nov 8, 2022

There is a reason for cutting the sycamores.

They have been overwhelming all else in this woodland area. And it does them little good - there are so many and so close that they are spindly things. They draw a great deal of moisture and nutrients from the soil - while the threatened ashes probably could do with all the help they can get.

But it is a contentious story. Sycamores may not be native but they came here it seems with the Romans (most of us probably came here, as in our ancestors, rather later) and are classified as 'naturalised'. It's not like they are eucalyptus trees. Or ginkgo. Though I'd rather love a few ginkgo trees.

In addition, they are not bad for biodiversity. In fact, they might be rather good. Better than some of our natives, even, according to the latest research. Many of the creatures who live on field maples - which are native - can live on sycamores. And, if the ashes do go, we might miss some of the felled sycamores.

The wood is close grained and good for carving,if not very interesting, in terms of the patterns of its grain.

It can be coppiced, and the wood used for,screens, hurdles, whatever. The leaves are beautiful in autumn, a whole palette of autumnal hues.

But, to assert the other side of the story, here they were looking set to create a monoculture - and that's not desirable. A mix of trees is better, with an understorey and glades. Maybe sycamores are a little bit too self-centred.

We spent four days in this wood - three days with chainsaws, one with hand tools and we burnt the brash (the leaves and small twigs and branches), while we piled the larger logs as dead wood habitat. That also means that they release their carbon more slowly than if burned.

Fires never seem that environmentally friendly, but work parties do love a bonfire. There is something primeval about cutting trees and fires in woods. Plus, you can bake potatoes in the ashes - which we did on the final day - and they were wonderful. I ate two.

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