Since its discovery in Scotland in 2011, the disease Phytophthora Ramorum, ‘Larch Tree Disease’ or ‘Sudden Oak Death’ as it is called in America, has devastated swathes of Larch in the Galloway Forest in Ayrshire.
The disease can spread in mists, air currents, watercourses and can be distributed unintentionally by animals and humans. The disease although of not harmful to humans causes trees to die. In 2014 around a million trees were felled in addition to the usual amount harvested annually.
The Galloway Forest is still a spectacular haven for wildlife and features stunning scenery, so on a two week trip to Ayr it was first on my list of places to visit. Although much of the forest has now been removed to prevent the spread of the disease, there are still areas of fantastic beauty, great conifers towering over bracken and wild flowers, slow trickling streams running through woodland and footpaths and cycle tracks that wind their way through it all.
Even the areas where the trees have been removed, make for superb photographs. The landscape in some areas is littered with huge roots and stumps from the felled Larch, reminiscent of photographs of the fields of the Somme destroyed during the First World War. In other areas life is already returning. New trees are filling the empty space, young sapling conifers with chartreuse needles are spreading their branches and bird song fills the air. It will be a place to revisit in the future as the forest reestablishes itself.