Scottish Tree Planting

This is an odd piece from a country famous for its woodland, this is from The Social Life in Scotland in the 18th century:

May we not attribute to this bleak, woodless aspect of the country the rarity in Scottish minstrelsy of reference to trees and to birds which frequent the woods? We find songs that celebrate the birches by the river’s side -… but there were few trees to incite a poet, and under whose “contiguity of shade” to woo. If there is a strange lack of allusion to birds of any variety in Scottish song we may explain it by the observation made by Burt in 1730: “It has been remarked that here [Inverness] there are few birds except such as build their nests upon the ground, so scarce are trees and hedges.”The lark’s song and the curlew’s shriek were familiar enough in open fields at that time. The cushat’s cooing notes were heard i the farmyard, but not so familiar was the voice of the mavis or the blackbird; while in many districts the linnet would have as rainy as Noah’s dove sought for a branch wherein to alight in a day’s journey.

The sudden awakening of landowners to a knowledge of the usefulness of timber if not to a sense of the picturesqueness of woodland scenery, which created enthusiasm for planting belongs chiefly to the second half of the century. Fo up to 1750 the attempt at planting were hesitating and limited, partly from lack of money, partly from opposition of the farmers and the country people, hedges and trees were regarded as their natural enemies, and they bitterly complained that the roots spoilt the ground, the shade killed the grain, and the branches fostered the birds that devoured the crops. In vehement dislike and aggressive resistance to this new and dangerous innovation of planting, the people did everything they could to hinder it. Under cover of the night they pulled up the saplings, tore down the branches, admired the trunks, and often in the morning the dismayed laird saw that in the darkness the labours and pride of years and been ruthlessly ruined.”

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