The objective of the Nature Exchange visit to eastern Slovakia was to provide opportunities for those who are involved in training in Scotland to exchange experience and best practice of nature conservation through the framework of the ‘Leonardo da Vinci’ programme of the European Commission. The Nature Exchange visit was organised and co-ordinated by Archnetwork and delivered in Slovakia by Krajina, a small private company which works in eco-tourism, Community Development and Cultural Management.
I was impressed by the Latvian stance of only planting native trees for timber production and in particular the way their native species list and climate allows for timber production and native woodland habitats to coexist under the same canopy over such vast tracts of land. I certainly felt very lucky to be able to learn about the effects of the fall of the iron curtain from people that were there when it fell, and of the management issues of such a massive land border, and even occasional visiting Bears in a way that no documentary or lecture could ever match.
Haymaking was happening everywhere we travelled across Transylvania in Romania, from the outskirts of the city of Timisoara to the heart of the Apuseni Mountains, a few days before midsummer in June 2011. Wooden carts pulled by glossy chestnut brown horses trundled along the roads, laden with loose piles of fresh green hay. From first light to dusk, groups of two or three people laboured in the small rectangular fields, using wooden forks and rakes to turn and gather in the hay, tossing it up into conical stacks built around a central wooden support. This might be a sturdy forked branch stuck upright in the soil, a tripod or four-legged frame, or a post with several cross-bars nailed together, the top invariably poking out above the haystack like a short mast.