AS spring makes a rather inconclusive effort to establish itself with a mixture of heavy showers, wind and cool temperatures, it ought to be the best time for de-cluttering. You know, making a fresh start.

Sad to contemplate that the little green buds now appearing on my doomed elms and dying ash have only a few opportunities left to enjoy the warmth of the sun, which appears through the clouds every once in a while, and now it’s raining again. I sit here in my office wondering what I can get rid of. My filing system is not dealing with technology at all well. If I wait a couple of milliseconds, no doubt AI will revolutionise my record keeping.

READ MORE: Forester's Diary: Forestry Commission is industry's big joke

AI used to be something that they did to cows. In fact, my very first Diary ever, all those years ago, dealt with my arrival at an upland farm where I was mistaken for the AI man.
“OO AA EYE?” bellowed the farmer, clearly disappointed I wasn’t his usual vet.

Will the modern AI phenomenon be more effective? D’you know, I don’t think it will.

Trepidation, that’s the word. But talking of words, which we were (sort of), I find myself scanning my bookshelves, which have remained untouched for perhaps a full decade, but which contain some rare beauties – and bring back some memories.

I found my copy of The Native Pinewoods of Scotland in a rather seedy second-hand bookshop, and did a deal for half a crown with the owner, who clearly didn’t get much passing forestry trade even in that Mecca of the second-hand book trade, Powys’ Hay-on-Wye. I was in the company of another prolific writer of books.

This in turn brings back memories of the late Dr Cyril Hart, who wrote and signed my edition of Forestry for the Surveyor which was in everyone’s locker at Cirencester College along with his take on Alternative Silvicultural Systems to Clear Cutting of Forests in Britain. This was something of an epiphany when it appeared in Forestry Commission bulletin number 115. Others, such as Britain’s Green Mantle, Sir Arthur Tansley’s vade mecum into ecology, were more conventional. 

Forestry Journal:  Robert Burns Robert Burns (Image: ARCHANT LIBRARY)

The FC’s other bulletins covered subjects like living with deer, birds in forestry, yield class fables – the list is endless. Well, perhaps not endless, but whatever became of the other 114? It’s hard to imagine such proliferous publishing came to an end with a mere couple of hundred publications. Where are they now? Well, I know where one or two survive – in my humble bookshelves.

Also surviving are more esoteric works, such as the proceedings of the Association of Applied Biologists in York 30 years ago. Somewhere in the 460 pages of minutes sits your humble Diarist, who actually chaired one session.

Vegetation Management in Forestry Amenity and Conservation Areas – now there’s a challenge. Has anyone else, apart from me, got a copy? I expect a more common survivor is Fountain Forestry, the First 50 Years. This was a pretty vivid period for investment forestry, which came to an end with the favourable tax treatment of forestry, the wonderful Schedule D, precipitated by scandalous goings-on in Caithness. Coincidentally, I read in today’s paper that the Flow Country has been granted important conservation status. But we saw it first, the industry could well claim.

But pride of place among my dusty collection goes to a rather old-fashioned filing cabinet which contains an almost complete collection of Forester’s Diary in back numbers of FJ.

What can be done with all of this? I hope that there is no scope for domestics, as they say. Suffice it to say the distaff side of our house management leans towards binning the lot. It will stop hurting when the recycling lorry trundles round the corner with its heavy load. 

Forestry Journal: Samuel PepysSamuel Pepys

Seriously though, readers, they say you can tell a great deal about a chap by looking through the titles in his library. Away from the forest, you will find copies of Samuel Pepys’ Diary rubbing shoulders with Dr Johnson’s adventures in the Scottish Highlands as recorded by his travelling companion, Boswell. Together they bemoan the damage done to native forests by red deer and sheep. And Dr Johnson opines on the lack of suitable fencing material being just one problem. Then there’s Robert Burns with his banks and braes. I did say ‘away from the forest’, but it’s hard, isn’t it?

These outpourings have only made a savage cull of my library less likely, don’t you think? But there might be a collector somewhere. I’ll just get on to Sotheby’s before making a decision. 

You just never know how AI could affect all this, do you?