Monday, 4 June 2012

An Atlantic Oakwood

One of the great pleasures of travelling is that you never know what you might find around the next corner. Ariundle Oakwoood, an Atlantic Oakwood on the outskirts of the pretty village of Strontian in Sunart, was one such surprise on my recent Scottish trip.  And Sunart is one of the few areas in Scotland that retain their ancient oakwoods, now so rare they are protected.

Ariundle is a precious fragment of an immense oakwood that once cloaked Europe's Atlantic coast from Portugal to Norway.  Here, the steep lochside has been wooded since the glaciers retreated some 12,000 years ago. A lush covering of mosses, lichens and liverworts flourish in this undisturbed world in the Strontian Glen.  The trees are mostly sessile oak, which do well on the acid soils that cover the granite bedrock.  Other native species include holly, hazel, birch, rowan, alder, willow, ash and wych elm.

Ancient oakwoods such as Ariundle have played an important part in the natural and human history of the area for thousands of years.  In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the trees were coppiced for charcoal burning and the remains of old charcoal burning platforms can still be found in the wood.  The fallen trees and their dead wood provide food for spiders, beetles and insects such as wood ants.

Above Left: Evidence of coppiced oaks can still be seen
Above Right: Tree Lungwort (Lobaria pulmonaria)

The oakwood in single tree:
Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) growing amongst moss with a Peltigera lichen to the left

The woodland floor: 
Primrose (Primula vulgaris) and one of my favourites, a Lousewort (Pedicularis sylvatica)

Cladonia squamosa


Roger B. said...

We spent a week in and around Strontian about 20 years ago. The highlight of our visit was a pine marten that visited our cottage every evening.

Roy said...

That's amazing Emma, I didn't know they existed.

Phil said...
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kirstallcreatures said...

The tree lungwort and lousewort are really unusual.