Promoting observation, free range exploration, sense of place and citizen science, through the field notes of a naturalist.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Culturally - modified trees (CMTs)

An item in the February edition of British Archaeology struck a chord with me. The article centred on the on-going study of carvings on beech trees around the Salisbury Plain area apparently chiseled in bark by war time soldiers. Many of these culturally-modified trees or arbroglyphs were more than just attempts at rural graffiti some were detailed images of semi-naked Land Girls in erotic poses. Wow!

This got me thinking of local examples of tree trunk scribblings around my local patch in the woodlands and field margins of the Eastern Valley where the smooth and easily modified bark of the beech tree is commonplace. I've seen these tree carvings off the beaten track in various woodlands. The above photo was taken this weekend on trees at the extremity of the Cwmsychan valley near The British. The most interesting aspect of these markings is that they're often in locations were nowadays people are rarely seen. Clearly these were carved in a time when walking in the countryside was far more popular as a past time than it is today and when pen knifes sat cheek by jowl with conkers, chewing gum and the Observers Book of Birds Eggs in the trouser pocket of any self respecting teenager. Almost all of the modified trees I've found to date carry initials, some with a date attached as in the photo, where 1970 and 1978 can clearly be seen. Unfortunately due to the ephemeral nature of trees these arbroglyphs will have a shelf life. Someone needs to record these now or a part of our modern cultural heritage will be lost for ever.

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