The next couple of posts are based on the work of James Fenton, an ecologist living in the Oban area who has worked in the Antarctic and the Falklands as well as the Scottish Highlands.
In a paper called: “Towards a New Paradigm for the ecology of the North and West of Scotland” he calls for two very different approaches to the management of the Scottish landscape (depending on topography).
One is the “nature reserve” approach: basically, a form of gardening. This is what we are doing at Ferry Wood.
At the moment we are still focussing on digging out the invasive rhododendron by hand. We think this to be worthwhile because the wood is an ancient semi-natural “core” oak woodland with mobile birchwoods round its edges, that have come and gone over time.
This woodland is threatened by the rhododendron, which casts a dense shade and – if left unchecked – would eventually dominate the whole woodland and cause both oak and birch to die out. It would also smother most of the rare Lower Plants that make it a fragment of Celtic rainforest.
The wood is surrounded by farmland and plantations, so needs protection from sheep and cattle, which, combined with the wild deer population, would cause overgrazing.
Ferry Wood is located in the coastal woodlands. Behind it the land rises to over 300 metres – and here Fenton argues for a totally different approach. This will be looked at in the next post.