Victims of the gales
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.
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.