Just got back from Romania, a great trip all round visiting the last villages to still be working the trees and land the old ways, living in wooden thatched houses that are a unique style to the region. I was there to learn about rural Romania, pollarding, lime burning etc. Unfortunately I did not come a cross any pristine forest, but spoke to an archaeologist who assures me that pristine forest does exist in the Carpathia regions (mountain range) I hope to return sometime next year to that zone. However I did discover beech forest managed heavily by man managed for many many generations, a landscape entirely worked and worked hard by the peoples of the region (Alba county)
These mountain forests have been repeatedly felled and regenerated some through the coppiced stools of those felled. A remarkable area with the most rapid and healthy regrowth and re generation, which is undoubtedly due to the cycle of felling and harvesting sustaining a stage of succession in the fungal community that is of course mycorrhizae, with Ceps and Chanterelles being a huge by product supplying a massive export from the region in the main harvest. Collection points throughout the region buy the fruits of this very productive system off the local gatherers and many are shipped to Italy and other European countries, along with Bilberries and other fruits which are also abundant because of the mosaic forest/pasture habitat that is sustained by the communities activities.
The purpose of the trip in co-operation with Grampus ( http://www.grampusheritage.co.uk/
) was to learn about the old ways and skills of the region and design projects that will sustain the skills and knowledge of these communities for the long term. Sadly the younger generations are leaving the old villages to seek work across Europe and live a modern life, and who can blame them? and its most urgent we rescue these traditional skills, peoples heritage, culture and knowledge before its too late. it was evident that the decline has begun to show, it was sad to see such a wonderful way of life in decline. this way of life must be preserved, we have so much to learn from it about truly sustainable ways of land management on a landscape scale, for they have made it an art for thousands of years here.
A local woman feeding her cow (milk for cheese etc) with ash "Shreddings" normally done when hay is exhausted over a long winter and supplementary fodder must be added to the diet. These cows and other livestock are kept in barns all winter and overnight (Wolves and Bears roam wild here) This Lady and her son very genourously not only shared information about the ways but gave us this demonstration. A priceless and rare image.
Trees are ring barked long before they are harvested, a practice evolved of the economy of effort needed to eek out a living from hard land. the wood seasons standing and dries making it half the wieght, a bit of lateral thinking!
Beech with bilberry
The Carline thistle a prairie/pasture lime stone perennial
The wood working skills of these Romanian villagers is outstanding
Fomitopsis pinicola a.k.a the red banded polypore, common on broadleaf and spruce in the region (here on Fagus sylvatica)
These Fagus are ring barked as described (different times) one is now ready to be harvested for use, the other in another year or so.
Bilberries doing well in a forest clearing created by felling
Fagus with F. fommentarius
The tree hunter my ol mate Rob McBride standing in amongst regrowth from a felled Q. petrea, which made up the majority of this particular woodland.
Nothing is wasted, the wood stack to the left is strips from the offcuts from milling timber, they will be used for many items, the bark covered outer planks are often used to create fencing boards. The stack further to the rear is produced from pollards and has many uses.
This scene shows the high pastures used for hay production, cattle never graze here, they are taken to higher pastures, these hay meadows reserved purely for winter feed production. This produces a rich wildflower habitat where butterflies and many species of Grass hopper thrive.
Willow pollard close to homestead and a typical Romanian haystack, brought down from the high meadow to be kept close to the overwintering catlle as snow in winter means getting out is impossible, everything is based close to home in preparation for the snow
There are so many skills to preserve, tapestry is a common theme.
Even an old Hay fork broken has a use! recycling taken to extremes is a common theme.
Everything is done for economy of movements, here an Ash (F. excelsior) pollard used to supplement winter hay stocks is right next to the barn the cows are kept in overwinter, keeping transport to a minimum.
Typical beech regeneration on the mountains