LET SLEEPING TREES LIE

 

"IN the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be." Today we tend to put it: "Where the tree falls, let it lie." There's a good deal of sense in that, in certain circumstances. For example, about two decades ago, a family moved into a small holding where river clearance had left the trunks of a few willows that had stood there for a minimum of a hundred years.

They were of varying length, some 10 feet, some more, a few less. They were rolled with some difficulty into useful positions or lifted by machine so that they made, in one case, a good shelter for raising young trees. (These trunks were four to five feet in diameter.

Others were just left here and there until some useful purpose could be found, or they disintegrated in the usual way of things. Those used as a nursery for young trees, proved most successful. And as time went on, they sprouted moss and grass on top, which eventually developed into a continuous sod. The seeds of other trees lodged there, and began to grow.

Very early on, it became apparent that the wild life was adapting 19, and appreciating, the new situation. Two seasons running a duck made her nest in the shelter of one lying trunk, making use of a curve in it, and being concealed by the rough grass and weeds that grew at its base. About a dozen years after the fellings, one of the trunks, a lesser one to be sure, has almost sunk to ground level. God knows how many beetles and other insects have burrowed into it and fed on it.

All others are coming down in size, though not collapsing, as far as can be seen. Where a few meet at an angle, rabbits have found it convenient to burrow, and you can see where in the now very soft texture, some animal has dug itself a resting place at ground level. New structures have to be thought out to replace one trunk, just outside a window, over which roses and honeysuckle were trained. For it, too, has shrunk a lot.

One lesson is learned. If mighty trunks like this will fade away into the earth, why bother to make a bonfire of the branches you have to lop now and then? It's not possible in a small garden, but anyone with a bit of space can find a quiet corner for them. And you are giving a home to creatures you may never see. The story would be different, of course, if the trees had been oak.