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Victims of the gales

May 25, 2011

Further to yesterday’s report on the gales, I’ve been out this morning in the strange post-gale calm to discover that there was a little more damage than I thought. Most of the woods are relatively unscathed, but several trees of one sort and another were down across both main drives to the castle, blocking access. Up the hill, there are dozens blown down: the groundsmen have barely had time to breathe today for all the roads that need clearing. Closer to home, a tall oak in the bluebell wood has lost its crown, which is hanging off it like an illl-fitting wig:

This will have to be cut off, as it is an obvious danger to anyone underneath. Our local tree surgeon must have a year’s worth of jobs lined up as of yesterday.

Meanwhile, one of the dogs found a dead baby rabbit in the woods this morning. It must have died no more than an hour before we got there: it was still in rigor mortis and almost warm. They grow up to be such a pest but, when they fit in the palm of your hand, they are just heart-breakingly adorable.

I wonder if the rabbit was another victim of the gale. The weather has been so unseasonably cold, windy and wet – eight degrees C today – that maybe it just died of exposure. There wasn’t a mark on it and no sign of illness. Sniff.

Elsewhere in the woods, we found a distinct channel of storm damage, almost as if a mini tornado had driven through the grounds. In a corridor of destruction only a few feet wide, eight of our pretty young notafagi have been uprooted, out of a stand of fourteen. These are the trees that herald the arrival of spring, so I am sad to see them down. (Although, yes, I am also thinking of the poor residents of Joplin, Missouri, and other communities devastated by real tornadoes, and I do know how lucky we are in this country. It’s all relative.)

Beyond the notafagi, in the same line of damage, a huge healthy Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) and a massive Lawson cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana) have been snapped in two like matchsticks. These trees, both native to the north-west of the United States, were almost certainly part of the original planting of the policies in the early nineteenth century. The castle’s laird of that period lived and travelled extensively in Oregon and Washington State in the 1820s and ’30s, eventually returning with a vision to plant out the environs of this Scottish castle as an echo of the landscapes he had loved half way across the world. The death of these two trees, then, signifies the passing of a small piece of our family history.

the hemlock, left, with the cypress just visible in the background.

Today is calm, but still unseasonably chilly. The cool damp air is filled with the scent of green wood and bonfire smoke, as the work of clearing up gets under way. Strange, but it feels more like autumn than May.

the remains of the Lawson cypress

For a little more about the ‘American’ laird and his plantings, see In praise of the Douglas Fir and On the Oregon trail in Scotland.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. May 25, 2011 7:16 pm


    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 25, 2011 11:37 pm

      Yes, freaky weather is always a little unsettling.

  2. May 25, 2011 9:14 pm

    Sorry to hear about your trees! It’s always so sad walking around after a storm like that and seeing all the branches on the ground. Monday was full of a wild wind in Aberdeen too.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 25, 2011 11:38 pm

      I think it was pretty wild all over Scotland. There is damage everywhere. Could be worse, though, could be worse.

  3. May 25, 2011 10:28 pm

    Oh how sad to see the damage to the trees. And the poor little rabbit! It may well have died of exposure – the last few days have been harsh even by autumnal standards….sigh….

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 25, 2011 11:40 pm

      What a year it’s been for weather, what with that ridiculously cold winter, baking April and now this. There are still a lot of trees here showing damage from the winter snow. Perhaps we’ll have a lovely warm summer to make up for it?! (She says, smiling brightly through gritted teeth.)

  4. maryz permalink
    May 25, 2011 11:12 pm

    How sad to see all the tree damage. I know each one is an old friend.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 25, 2011 11:43 pm

      Yes, it always makes me sad. One gets very attached to a familiar landscape, so any change feels like a loss. But the other side of the story is the amazing powers of regeneration in nature, so there is always new growth somewhere to console us.

  5. May 26, 2011 7:57 am

    So sorry to see this damage. There’s something particularly stark about a snapped-off tree, even more so than an uprooted one. Trees down in the city centre here. My daughter went out for a run yesterday morning and came back reporting that there was a big tree down in Victoria Park. As a country girl, without thinking, I asked her, “which one?”. “Uh, duh, Mum, some random tree.” I realised then that we tree people have a different view of life.
    Perhaps you can create a new bit of family history through your own replanting. A good excuse for a visit to the American West Coast??

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 26, 2011 11:41 am

      Hah, that’s really interesting, your daughter’s reaction, I mean. I suppose there IS a ‘tree people’ way of seeing trees as individuals.

      We have a steady programme of planting going on, fortunately. At the moment we are concentrating on specimens from South America and the uplands of Japan. We both feel, however, that one of these days we should get over to Oregon ‘for auld lang syne’. We shall see…

  6. May 26, 2011 8:32 pm

    That poor little darling:(

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 28, 2011 2:51 pm

      I know…such a sweetie…

  7. May 26, 2011 11:03 pm

    Nature is certainly pruning and re-landscaping everywhere this year.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 28, 2011 2:51 pm

      a very constructive attitude! 🙂

  8. Deb permalink
    May 27, 2011 12:22 am

    We do forget sometimes how strong a force nature can be and risk becoming complacent and careless. We live in an area where tornadoes are a rare occurrence, but they seem to be happening quite near. So sorry to hear about your trees. We spent the weekend at Hyde Park in New York, where Franklin Roosevelt called himself a “tree farmer”, and were so impressed by the large, beautiful trees planted on the property. It was a privilege to walk among them. I’m sure you feel the same about your trees.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 28, 2011 2:55 pm

      Hyde Park sounds lovely. Yes, I always feel privileged to have these trees for my neighbours!

  9. May 27, 2011 9:31 pm

    So sorry that things were worse than you thought yesterday. The sight of a huge tree snapped off like this is indeed very unsettling as well as a great shame. It’s been windy here in Wales and very chilly for the time of year, but nothing like what you’ve been enduring.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 28, 2011 2:57 pm

      It is quite unnerving seeing these big trees snapped in two. The force of the gust that did that is pretty scary. It’s very windy again today, but not as violent as that.

  10. hmunro permalink
    June 2, 2011 3:34 pm

    The photos of the dead baby rabbit are both beautiful and heartbreaking. And how sad to witness the destruction of such beautiful trees. I hope the weather will behave itself from here on so that you can get on with the cleanup.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      June 2, 2011 4:39 pm

      I know. I wasn’t sure whether to post them or not – but death is part of the reality of the rural idyll.

      Anyway, in an abrupt volte face, the sun is shining today and it’s 23 degrees C! At last!


  1. ‘Many of those trees were my friends’ « Dancing Beastie

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