Mountains, trees & sheep
Am I right in thinking our mountains would be covered in trees if it were not for the sheep ? I mean, I like trees, but they do tend to get in the way of the view. We were in the Howgills yesterday, and I don’t think there’s a single tree on the whole lot, except for a small fenced area opposite the M6…Posted 9 years agoTracker1972Member
Above the treeline you would not have trees anyway, just not sure what height the treeline would naturally be. I suspect you may be right in places, although I think the trees would have had to have been cleared first. Sheep may prevent new tree growth by eating saplings/seedlings but don’t think they would take down established trees.
Only partly informed speculation though, am awaiting an expert who might actually give me more, probably useless to me personally, information.Posted 9 years agodevsMember
Sheep and deer. Thewre are a few projects going on to restore the natural forest of Caledon. Rothiemurchus is about the biggest chunk left. Several places have been fenced off and natural forest is now growing. Anyone who travels the B9007 between Forres and Carrbridge will have noticed this. A forest seems to have just appeared but it has taken 10 years or so to natural seed and get to a height where it is noticeable. I think it was Ton who pointed out how spooky the old forest roots look when exposed at the edge of bleak lochs. Lochindorb is like this but now the forest is returning the tree roots don’t look so incongruous.Posted 9 years agoswamp_boyMember
Most upland areas were wooded until humans appeared in large numbers and introduced land maggots [sheep to the rest of you] in large numbers. They don’t kill mature trees but eat seedlings, so the long term effect is that the trees don’t regenerate and eventually disappear. In Cwm Idwal, Snowdonia there are some experimental plots that have been fenced off, but there aren’t many tree seed sources nearby so the regeneration is slow. Any climbers can tell you that there are species like holly and oak growing at surprisingly high altitudes on crags where the sheep can’t get them.
The most important timber for wooden ships was the big curved branches of mature oaks which made the main ribs, but a massive amount of smaller and lower quality material was used as well for all the other parts. The demand was massive and there was a lot of pressure to keep planting trees to maintain supplies. Even after we started building iron and steel ships it didn’t change – the Forestry Commission was set up after WW1 in order to maintain a strategic reserve of timber. When I trained back in the 1970s, being a forester meant farming trees, their present renown as proprietors of mountain bike trails is a recent thing.Posted 9 years agoslowmedownMember
Sheep = woolly maggots
After the foot and mouth thing, Plas-y-Brenin had a photo exhibition of photos taken anonymously, within Snowdonia without sheep the number of flowers and saplings was amazing.
Many said this was why sheep were allowed back onto the mountains before people.Posted 9 years agosmiffyMember
Since the changes in funding for hill farming (Tir Mynydd etc.) the stocking levels are lower and saplings are getting a chance to grow around here where they didn’t use to. The sheep break into my garden less, too. The hills are less stressed nowadays and biodiversity is improved.Posted 9 years agoSiMember
But then equally they have an important function on our coastal slopes along with cattle helping to control the bracken and scrub which works to improve the condition of the SSSI’s.
Its all about management at the ned of the day and there is plenty of evidence of both good and bad around this countryPosted 9 years ago
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