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04 November 2017
A primrose in autumn? And other strange things happening in the woods...

Primroses shouldn’t be out in October, should they? I spotted this in the woods a few weeks back, and it has been bothering me. I wanted to share it.

I’m thinking a lot about climate change, and in particular the vital role that forests and woodlands play in helping to mitigate the impacts we are causing.  I’ve been involved in some interesting debates and discussions about this, including reading poetry about climate change at the Scottish Parliament. Is a parliamentary committee calling for poetry a sign of political desperation or of political maturity on the issue?

Fortunately, the importance of woods and trees is being recognised, big style, all over the country over the next few weeks, with the launch of the Tree Charter. This is a celebration of the 800th anniversary of the original tree charter, which was written alongside the Magna Carta. In fact it earned the Magna Carta its name; it was called the Big Charter to distinguish it from the shorter charter about trees, which declared the need to give all people some access to woods, even in the royal forests, for example for gathering dead wood and letting their pigs root for acorns. A big group of woodland organisations, led by the Woodland Trust, has come together to declare that we still need access to woods and trees in 2017. Please add your signature to it if you haven’t already.

The new Tree Charter has ten principles, and as part of the celebration a totem poem is being erected for each principle, with a poem engraved onto it. One of these will be in Scotland and I am proud to have been asked to write the Scottish poem, for the principle ‘Coping with threats’. I have produced a poem called ‘Resilience’, which is currently being carved into a caber somewhere in the distant south. The pole-erection ceremony will be at Lang Craigs, near Dumbarton, on Saturday 25 November, 10.30am – 2.30pm and you’re all very welcome!

As my own personal celebration of the Tree Charter, I’ve reprinted A-B-Tree, my Overton-prize winning pamphlet of tree poems, one for each of the species in the Gaelic Tree Alphabet, complete with a concertina of lovely photos by Bill Ritchie. You can get your copy (or the ideal seasonal gift for the person you know who likes trees!) here: A-B-Tree.

I’m also making the poems available as an e-book on Amazon, super cheap, so if you’d like to grab it for your kindle or phone, you can snap it up here: A-B-Tree ebook. If you like it and want to leave a review, that would be lovely.

And if you’re the least bit concerned about climate change, why not plant a tree, support a woodland group near you or make a gift to a forest charity this winter? We need the woods. Their ability to soak up carbon dioxide is our best defence for coping with the threat of runaway climate change. The signs are here: a primrose in October is just one of them.

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