Country diary: Little Britain in the Peak District

Burbage Moor, Derbyshire: No-one is sure why the plantation was laid out in the shape of Britain … Soon the whole island will be cut down and be replanted with oak and birch

Fed up with a near gale on Burbage Edge, I dropped into the shelter of the valley below and on a whim decided to explore the coniferous plantation that fills it. This is the dead heart of Burbage, a dull green plaque on the ever-changing face of heather and bracken moor.

The trees, a mixture of Scots and lodge-pole pine and larch, cover 83 acres and were planted in the late 60s. No one quite knows why, not even Sheffield city council, which paid the bill, but there was no money to thin the saplings and so the under-storey became a gloomy mass of rotting timber and pine needles.

Nor is anyone sure why the plantation was laid out in the shape of Britain. You can see it easily on a map or satellite photos. Cornwall and Devon, intended to fill the hillside under the stumpy summit of Carl Wark, a rocky promontory, soon died off, leaving England somewhat truncated. Soon the whole island will be cut down and replanted with oak and birch.

I entered from the north, near “Thurso”. The packed lodge-poles were shivery and wretched, as you might expect for trees native to California; many, torn from the thin soil by the wind, lay propped against neighbours, allowing sunlight to conjure patches of vibrant moss from dead ground.

Charred remains of fires and broken bottles littered clearings. There were shelters, mostly half collapsed, but one quite grand, with green boughs for a roof and a neat fireplace out front, a bendy for a postmodern Robin Hood. Nearby, a dragon’s head was carved into a boulder.

Moving south into “England”, progress slowed. The fallen trees were more numerous and larger. Apart from a single chaffinch, the only chirrups and squeaks came from trees rubbing against each other. I was relieved to reach the south coast and the moor beyond, where a wren greeted my success and two pipits took to the air. © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *