This Week I’ve Mainly Been Fighting Cherry Laurel

I’ve been having some issues with Cherry Laurel on one of my woodland sites since I took over in the New Year. For those of you unfamiliar with this git of an invasive, it’s quite similar to Rhododendron. It’s very tolerant, quick growing and evergreen and can shade out huge areas of woodland understory, impeding native flora. It’s also pretty ecologically useless; I’ve been inspecting large stands of it on the site and I’ve yet to find any birds nesting in it (or even any around it). There are often midges and something’s been having a go at the leaves, but the invert. habitation seems to be pretty low.

cherry laurel

That stuff back there

There’s a very definite advance line of the stuff – you can see it originating as thick barriers used by some of the hideous mock-Tudor mansions that border the ‘rich side’ of the site to stop the plebs from the estates round the ‘other side’ getting any ideas (I imagine). They’ve undoubtedly caused more damage than the occasional burnt out moped and bit of graffiti I get from the ‘other side’. The centre, semi-ancient woodland, is mercilessly free of the stuff, but it’s thick around the edges and I’ve decided that what’s needed is my own Maginot line and my own Schlieffen Plan of attack (yes, I realise this makes me both allies and axis in this scenario, and that I’m mixing my World Wars).

Normally I’d have the stuff cut by big, burly men (and women) with chainsaws and treated with potentially carcinogenic herbicides, but no money, you see. So it is once again all down to that hardy mainstay of the conservation movement – the volunteer fueled by industrial levels of tea and biscuits.

leatherface

The contractors are in and keen to get to work

One of the annoying things about laurel is that if lopped laurel branches are left to lie on the ground, they can take root and sprout new growth. In a perfect world, I’d burn the stuff (fire, the great purifier, solves so many problems), but the woodland is quite closed canopy and I don’t really like burning past March (however, one of the few saving graces is that because of the aforementioned avian aversion to the stuff, as long as it’s had a thorough check beforehand you can pretty much fell it year-round).

So my current method to avoid regrowth is to make a raft of any dead wood and then stack the laurel on top (mattocking out the roots where possible, or just bludgeoning them with a hand axe to let water and disease in). At first, this does produce a large and slightly unsightly brash pile, but after a couple of weeks, it’s already noticeably squashed down.

Where possible, we also built the rafts on top of newly cut laurel stools to prohibit regrowth. In September, I will probably come back and put a match to the whole lot…this has caused some panic; cherry laurel contains cyanide (or something similar) and some people have been a little concerned I might poison local residents. I’ve been assured it’s safe. I guess we’ll find out. If I disappear come the autumn, you’ll know why.

The area already looks hugely different, with a drastically increased light level hitting the woodland floor. I’ll be tracking the laurel regrowth and ground flora for the next few years. Anyway, a bit of a ‘this is what I did at work this week’ post there. But what did you expect? I’ve been busy. Stop complaining.

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The Green Glossary – B

Another missive from the front line of the green movement. For all you non-adherents out there, the Green Glossary is a guide to bluffing your way through any conversation with an over-zealous, greeny-type. This week is brought to you by the letter ‘B’:

Badger, (n) – Pied mustelid with a tendency to evoke very black and white opinions. The truth is somewhere in the grey.

Bagshall, Steve – Musclebound pin-up that even the most misanthropic and cynical of Greenies (i.e. me) can’t help but like. Created with the soul purpose of seducing the more superficially-minded to the cause. Like a sexy apostle.

Baker, Nick – Bug bothering Baker badgers beetles, beleaguers bees and besieges butterflies.

Ban, (v) – The primary aim of the majority of Green endeavours is to ban or restrict any activity taking place in the countryside before they started to take an interest in it. If the activity is largely the preserve of individuals with more money and opposing political convictions, then all the better.

Bats, (n) – A bulwark against frivolous developments which unfortunately often offers all the protection of a wet meringue.

Beardy hipster

Beard, (n) – Essential facewear for 50% of followers. Optional for the other 50%

Beaver, (n) – The magic bullet that will cure all the ills and problems of conservation north of the border. Possibly by flooding out The Enemy. Causes some outsiders to giggle uncontrollably – See also; Blue Tit, Shag.

Bee, (n) – A fuzzy little black canary in the mine and insect du jour.

Bicycle, (n) – Essential mode of transport for all followers. Those in the movement who do not own a bicycle are looked on as degenerates, heretics and outcasts.

Bierce, Ambrose – Time-travelling, plagiarizing bastard

Birch, (n, v) – A tree even you can identify. The branches are apparently useful for hitting people with. Rumour has it that some followers of the movement gather under a full moon and self-flagellate with birch branches in an act of penance for every act of consumerism or litre of petrol purchased.

Birds, (n) – The C of E of the Green religion.

Biodiversity, (n) – A word to be sprinkled liberally throughout any communique, official document or propaganda piece. Preferably in at least every third sentence. No one really knows what it means.

Bittern, (n) – A bird that can’t be mentioned without someone, somewhere saying ‘Booooooooom’.

Blackthorn, (n) – A spiky bastard.

Blog, (n, v) – An obligatory extra curricular activity for all serious practitioners of the faith. A platform to yell into the void all that distresses and enraptures. A form of therapy that fills much the same role as the confessional booth.

Blue Tit, (n) – A perfectly sensible name for a bird that for some reason provides an endless source of amusement to the likes of you.

Buddleia, (n) – An admirably hardy invasive. Laughingly promoted as ‘butterfly bush’ by shameless garden centre salesmen everywhere. The butterflies remain oblivious to the fact the buddleia has been supplied specifically for their enjoyment and studiously ignore it.

Budget, (n) – A mythical concept which serves the same purpose as Manna or Ambrosia in other religions. Some acquaintances swear they heard tales of a colleague of a friend of an associate in the sector who once had a budget, but no one has ever seen any concrete evidence of this.

Burning, (v) – Either an essential part of conservation land management or a dangerous and deleterious practice. To discern which camp a particular incident falls in, consult the size of the land manager’s bank balance.

buzzard

Buzzard, (n) – Pe-yoooo. Simply put one of the most pleasant sounds of the countryside

 

Bracken, (n) – Annoyingly prevalent. There are some that believe a cross-section of the earth’s crust will show a thick bracken layer.

Bramble, (n) – A prickly bastard and bane of many a conservationist’s existence. Has often led to confused accusations of self-harm.

By-laws, (n) – Put in place for the likes of you, not for the likes of us.

Feel free to tweet any additions to next week’s #greenglossary, which will, in strict adherence to logic, cover the letter ‘C’.

Graffiti: I Draw the Line at a 6ft High Penis

For the last couple of weeks, kids have been everywhere. The woodland I work on has been practically lousy with them. Easter holidays, you see. They have been released on mass from the penitentiary-esque confines of the educational system to clutter up the place and generally get under the feet of their elders and betters. Not that I’m against this kind of thing, me being a keen advocate of getting the youth of today out in the countryside and inflicting nature on them.

This has been coupled with a noticeable rise in the levels of graffiti on the reserves and greenspaces in my area. Now, I’d normally baulk at drawing such a direct line between correlation and causation, but in this case, given some of the dubious spelling involved and generally poor penmanship, I’ll make an exception. It was interesting then, to come across a well-argued if slightly lofty piece on the general harmlessness of graffiti in urban greenspace. Coming fresh off the back of a week spent splattered with brown paint from covering up large purple phalluses scrawled across veteran trees, I thought it necessary to offer a response from the coal-face.

There are many, many, many…many things I could better employ my time doing than removing graffiti from trees. So as I try to scrub the ‘Scorched Earth Brown’ from beneath my fingernails, it’s not surprising that I might muse ‘why not just leave it?’ I can see the point, too. Sometimes graffiti can be colourful, interesting and beautiful. Just ask Banksy:

Imagine a city where graffiti wasn’t illegal, a city where everybody could draw whatever they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colours and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt like a party where everyone was invited, not just the estate agents and barons of big business. Imagine a city like that and stop leaning against the wall – it’s wet.”

Neil is a PedoExcept it wouldn’t be a utopia, Banksy. It wouldn’t be a colourful place full of imaginative works of art to captivate the eye. What it would be is a landscape full of six-foot high penises, tags, exhortations to ‘Fuck da Police’, or warnings that ‘Neil is a Pedo’. When we talk about graffiti, just because we append the suffix ‘artist’ in the description, doesn’t necessarily follow that you’re going to get works of art. To use a completely one-sided statistic, 100% of the graffiti I’ve dealt with this week has fallen into one of the above categories. And it’s been on trees.

Ah…but I’m being subjective, aren’t I? What’s offensive and ugly to me, might be attractive to others. Who am I to argue with penises?* Surely they are art, are they not? Certainly, the Greeks were very fond of them. If an ugly, gravelly wall is a suitable canvas to be brightened by a colourful and perhaps socially aware mural, then why can’t an old, gnarly tree be improved with a giant, purple penis? It’s all subjective, of course. And that’s the problem when you start making arguments about subjectivity. No one can say ‘no’.

The original argument in Tales of the City was about a colourful picture on an old concrete wall. But where colourful, unasked for artwork begins, giant purple phalluses often follow. If the interesting but unexpected artwork on the concrete wall is allowed, then how can we draw the line at the obscenity on the veteran Oak? some people don’t find old, gnarly trees that aesthetically pleasing, and the graffiti doesn’t particularly do any harm to the tree – so why not? I could bring out the old ‘broken window’ theory here, but I think you get the gist.

*Another one to add to the collection; ‘sentences I never thought I’d write.’

The Green Glossary – A

I’ve long since pondered that what’s needed for the layman to navigate the acronym and buzzword-heavy world of the ‘Green Movement’ is some sort of dictionary; a Glossary if you will. This would help the uninitiated cut through the jargon, the science and the species talk that can make the world of your standard Ecologist sound like so much gobbledegook. Starting – as is the custom of things – with A, here a frequently disgruntled mid-level functionary in the movement (me) sheds light on the words conservationists use and what they really mean; revelations which will surely knock all that Xenu stuff into a cocked hat. So here, for all the non-believers out there – the infidels, if you will – I give you the Green Glossary:

Acorn, (n). A marvel of nature. When planted in the ground, within a mere 300 years a single acorn can become a fully mature oak, replete with a multitude of branches, small and large. Vulnerable to a whole host of injurious potentialities, from disease, wind-sheer, fire and fungus, but more commonly victim to clear-felling where an alternate crop would be more financially beneficial. An allegory for the sector.

Agenda, (n). An item often seen in the possession of your intrepid environmentalist. Frequently observed being dragged up the hill of general apathy.

Agriculture, (n). Potentially the movement’s greatest ally. See Also: THE ENEMY

Alder, (n). A tree readily identifiable by its repeated cock and balls motif.

Alien, (n). Anything with the temerity to be where it is not wanted.

Alkanet, Green, (n). An example of the general perversity of botanists in the matter of labelling.

Green alkanet

Alkanet, Green (n). An example of the general perversity of botanists in the matter of labelling

Amphibian, (n). Able to enjoy the best of both worlds. Despite popular belief that the world is run by an unseen cabal of lizard overlords, it is in actual fact run by a secret sect of amphibian despots. This is yet another example of the general ecological illiteracy of the general populace (i.e. you)

Ancient, (adj). As pertaining to trees, having reached an age of such venerable decrepitude as to be almost, but not entirely, dead and yet paradoxically more alive and of interest to ecologists than ever. As pertaining to ecologists, having reached an age of such venerable decrepitude as to finally be of interest to other ecologists.

Animal, (n). The stock currency of the movement. Cuddlier and more charismatic animals represent higher denomination notes, flora and insect life account for the smaller change.

Ant, (n). An insect worshipped by the movement for 364 days of the year. On the other day – Flying Ant Day – it is roundly abused and cursed. Many followers take part in the annual Flying Ant Day dance, which to the ignorant may appear like so much limp-wristed flailing. It is thought that the annual Flying Ant Day celebrations are performed in order to disabuse ants of the notion that they need not be earth-bound. As such, it has so far been a demonstrable success in forestalling the Rise of the Insects.

Anti- (adj). A prefix often associated with the movement.

Apocalypse, (n). A long-expected (and in some quarters, long hoped for) levelling of the playing field.

Arborist, (n). Lunatics who sit in the crown of trees, throwing chainsaws back and forth, whistling all the while. They perform the same religious function as the bull-leapers of Minoan Crete.

Arctic, (n). An Atlantis for the 26th Century.

Ash, (n). An Elm for the 21st Century

Aster, (n). Probably what that pretty flower that caught your eye was.

Attenborough, David – A major deity of the movement. To be worshipped in 1-hour stretches on Sunday afternoons, not unlike other, more erroneously popular deities.

Autumn, (n). A season. A time of year notable amongst conservationists as the period when they start to think about, maybe, possibly getting out and doing some work. Just as soon as the weather clears.

Avocet, (n). A stilt-walking, long-faced, poster-boy and corporate shill for a major arm of the movement.

Next week: B. Please send in your suggestions