IF March was set to come in like a lion, then it got its timing very wrong. I speak with no little rancour as I sit down to write, knowing the night’s gale ripped the roofing felt off our goose house and blew down a huge and impressive macrocarpa down in the village.

But as I sit here, viewing the scenes of distant flooding across the fields, I can consider myself lucky. There are many who will remember this spring with pain and suffering. We are 17 metres above high-tide mark, and the tidal river Severn flushes itself out twice a day. But we still have to negotiate our flooded access lane leading to the main road, which can be dodgy. But it’s nothing like being faced with mopping out your home or business, again and yet again. Depressing, to put it mildly.

But in all this carnage, what damage have these storms done to the forest? Tucked under the edge of Wales, we seem to usually escape the sort of windblow which perturbed us years ago, as upland Sitka showed its vulnerable side. Surely however, with gusts up to and over 100 miles per hour reported in the Highlands, there must be some catastrophic losses of plantations somewhere. I moaned recently that the media coverage of fires in Australia, among all the smoke and flames, all the aerial bombarding of wildfires and all the pictures of charred remains of unfortunate houses, there was absolutely zilch about the effects on the forest. Nothing about the economic losses and the ability (or otherwise) of the eucalyptus forest to withstand the blaze and recover. And just how much Pinus radiata plantation got clobbered? But we did get to hear about the sad koalas and the even sadder fate of those few brave souls who lost their lives firefighting.

In these early passages of our exposure to extreme climatic events, to climate change, it is easy to see floods, fire and pestilence as just about on the edge of normal, not happening again in a hundred years. Personally, I’ve been around in this world for long enough to take a far more alarmist and pessimistic view of our future. Something unusual, sinister and worrying is now happening. You can feel it. The weather doesn’t feel right and it’s not going to go back to where it was fifty years ago. It is heading for uncharted and much more dangerous waters.

This presents our long-term plans, like dramatically increasing the rate of tree planting, with something of a problem. Are these new plantings destined to go up in smoke in the next drought? Will our carefully planted and tended new forests blow over in the inevitable storms to come? Should our new exotics be fundamentally fireproof? Eucalyptus again, plus Californian redwoods?

In passing, I have been studying the data in an attempt to design the ideal plantation for the warm future, and have been deeply disappointed. There’s pages of blethering and an apparently wide range of species which can perhaps fit the bill. But there is too much choice and not enough clear instruction as to where to find seed or nursery stock, if any even exists. And I wish I were a contractor. I would focus on members of the Country Landowner’s Association who, it was reported in the Sunday Times (them again) think it costs £80 per acre per annum for 20 years to establish a plantation, on top of the costs of prep, ground, drainage and fencing, plants and planting. Their ideas once again seem (putting it politely) to be a little out. Incidentally, no-one has yet confronted the effects on land values when £10,000 an acre for medium-quality arable land becomes less than £1,000 an acre for forest land after planting. Bit of a disincentive for land-use change here, I think.

And now, would you believe it, it’s raining again. And more is forecast for the week ahead. Whatever next? March coming in like a lamb? Or, at least, going out like one.

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