On our third day in Snowdonia we awoke again to brilliant sunshine. Despite the hard frost that had turned every surface a sparkling white it did not seem especially cold for there was no wind. A walk to the ‘enchanted’ forest beckoned, a great favourite of ours for it is a magical place with its mossy hummocks, hidden waterfalls and lichen encrusted conifers. It is a place of total silence apart from the sound of water and ravens croaking overhead.
There is an old track that leads to the forest made by the miners that quarried for slate a long, long time ago before the trees were grown, for this is naturally a barren landscape of rock and bog and heather and bilberry. The trees were planted – non-native conifers – in rows so that the forests appear from a distance as odd shaped rectangles stuck onto a landscape, rarely looking part of the natural scheme of things. They support little in the way of wildlife either, perhaps a little shelter for some passing deer but nothing in the way of food apart for the flocks of crossbills that occasionally winter here feeding on the cones. Yet, despite all these negatives, the enchanted forest is well, enchanting.
Not anymore. We reached the forest gate but, apart from a few trees clustering around the entrance as if trying to escape into the more open spaces beyond, there were just a few damaged and sad looking individuals, all their companions having been clear felled. It was a shocking sight, looking as if a tornado had ripped through them, leaving just rows of broken stumps and, occasionally, an upturned root ball. Sadder still, the tussocks and moss covered mounds that created the ‘Brothers Grimm’ feel had all been destroyed with them. Instead of walking through a cool tunnel of overhanging branches we ventured along a broken landscape; there was not one section recognisable or familiar.
Now it is quite possible that the original landscape will be restored as part of the overall long term plan, for Snowdonia is a National Park. Or, perhaps, the forest will be replanted or allowed to regenerate from self-sown seedlings. Having got over the initial shock of seeing the landscape looking at its worse, I hope it will be the former. The trees really are out of place here and, for the first time (if you can see beyond the devastation) there are wide, uninterrupted views of bleak, harsh mountainside – Snowdonia as it should be.
Whatever the outcome, it will be interesting to watch how nature repairs itself. One thing is quite certain: the landscape will never look the same in my lifetime. Perhaps it may look better?
To see more of the enchanted forest in all its former glory, click on the link here.