Wednesday 9 April 2008

Kielder Forest

With 250 square miles of conifer plantation and the largest man-made lake in northern Europe this is not really the first place a naturalist would think of going. But Kielder is a stronghold for red Forest roadsquirrel, goshawk, otter, blanket bog and much more (just don’t mention the midges).

I’ve been up there a few times in the last couple of years, checking out the lichens on crags in the forest or just wandering aimlessly. Sometimes you find a sign forbidding access due to forestry operations but if no one is around and it seems safe I just go on (I think they forget to take the signs down). It must be fun learning to use those forest harvester machines. Forest harvesterBut I wonder if it gets boring after you have felled, snedded and cut-to-size your 10,000th tree.

The Cladonia lichens on the road sides and in the fire breaks are amazing. Mostly very common species but big and butch and raised on steak, beans and singing hinnies. Lichen forest with Cladonia sulphurina

There is Cladonia sulphurina looking like organ pipes, lawns of glauca, thickets of gracilis, and polydactyla showing off that it can do anything you can do but better. There is hardly anywhere to tread without squashing things. Brilliant. If they were edible they would make a great-looking salad. Cladonia glaucaIt must be the combination of an ideal substrate, high rainfall and the humid shelter provided by the forest that allows them to grow so well and there are hundreds of miles of forest roads with bank sides perfect for growing them.

Cladonia polydactylaThe mires in the Kielder area are internationally important and support thick carpets of plants such as Sphagnum, bog asphodel, bog rosemary, sundew, cross-leaved heath and cotton-grass. Although the mire edges were planted up during less enlightened times the Forestry Commission have put in a Herculean effort and at least £1 million to put this right over the last five years. Most trees were harvested but where the ground was too soft they were mulched, from the top down where they stood, using specially developed machinery. The result is, at first sight, a scene of devastation but the mire vegetation Cladonia polydactylais quickly coming back. I am monitoring the recovery with fixed point photos.

Mulched trees at mire edge There is definitely more in the forest than just the trees.


hyperborean60 said...

Mike - this is fantastic !
Keilder Forest is certainly a surprising place, but I do love your enthusiastic descriptions of the sheer abundance and luxuriant presence of the clads. And I now know what a 'singing hinnie' is.
Keep blogging.

Emma Anderson said...

I will have to ride over. I have just started an interest in lichens, having photographed many in Scotland last week. You ID site is excellent.