It is a common and oft-quoted myth that there are no trees in Shetland. Certainly there aren’t many, but they can be found, and if you head out past the Bonhoga gallery on Westside to Kergord, there are about half a dozen plantations of pines and larches, in varying stages of decay and dilapidation, to be explored.
We’d driven by them a number of times, enjoying the novelty of seeing Shetland’s only rookery, then one day a workmate at the bakery told me her children were going on a school field trip to a ‘forest’ (which is stretching the point just a little bit!) and were being taken to Kergord.
So, driving by today, we decided to stop off and take a look. The plantations are not managed at all; apparently they used to be looked after by the Amenity Trust, but as none of the trees are native, the trust has – probably quite justifiably – decided there are better things to spend its money on, and so the woods are in a bit of a state. Fallen trees and rotten stumps are everywhere, covered in mosses and lichens. There are areas you can’t even get close to for the undergrowth, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be in among those trees in high winds – it feels and sounds like they could all come crashing down around you at any time.
But it is, nonetheless, lovely. Suddenly we came upon a patch of newly budding wood sorrel (got to go back and get some pictures of those in a week or so) and in one of the more open plantations, the ground was a carpet of yellow celandines. We could hear the seeping of what we think must have been goldcrests in the treetops, though we couldn’t spot them. There’s the remains of an old building, with the remnants of a recent fire – presumably for the children’s benefit – and there are a number of dens built out of old logs.
I can imagine the children thrilling to the slight creepiness of the woods, the dankness of the darker bits, ravens cronking overhead, the gnarled and twisted trees looking like they might get up and walk at any minute. I hadn’t really thought about it until we got there, but suddenly I realised I missed woods, so it’s great to know that they’re there. It may not quite be a forest, but it’ll do. Think we’ll go back for a picnic.