Natural regeneration was abundant nearly everywhere we visited, something which is comparatively unusual in Scotland unless it is enclosed within a deer fence. Regeneration was so prevalent in some locations that it was encroaching into previously open habitats, such as small fields of abandoned farms. A strong hunting culture and associated herbivore management within Finland appears to the main cause for natural regeneration within Finnish forests.
The government use revenue from hunting licences to compensate landowners on any damage to productive tree crops by deer browsing – if this is indeed correct it is a very different system to what we have in Scotland.
Despite the presence of bears and wolves we learned that hunting is essential to managing a sustainable deer population, which was contrary to my perception at the start of the trip. Tapio said there are around 300 wolves in Finland, but 10,000 would be needed to meet equilibrium. It would not be possible for the number of wolves to coexist with the current human population of Finland – so hunting of deer by humans will always be required.
We also learned that in the Lapland area accounting for 36% of the country no bears, wolves or lynx were tolerated and were shot on sight to protect the reindeer. Unlike Scotland there are no ‘professional’ hunters, as hunting is too popular of an activity. However, Tapio foresees such jobs might exist in the future as the country continues to urbanise and less people live in rural areas.
We learned that Finland has forty two National Parks and we were told that in total they receive around 4 million visitors per year. By contrast Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park (LLTTNP) has over 4.5 million visitors.
The Society for the Coast (EUCC Poland) hosted the group, ably led by Dr. Kazimierz Rabski. EUCC is a stakeholder and network association with members in 40 countries. It aims to promote a European approach to coastal conservation by bridging the gap between scientists, environmentalists, site managers, planners and policy makers. Since its foundation in 1989 it has grown into the largest network of coastal and marine practitioners and experts in Europe and neighbouring areas. The Society for the Coast currently employs four members of staff. Its work concentrates on the Odra Delta Nature Park. The name Pomerania comes from Slavic po more, which means “land by the sea”.
Houses in nearby villages are simpler in style, with wooden or metal doors often the only parts decorated. Roman and Turkish influences can be imagined. On day 1 we stopped in Ciclova Romana and Manuela went to collect sheep’s cheese from behind such a door. It was as if we’ve stepped back in time: green grass transported by horse drawn cart, hens pecking about, a cock crowing and the smell of mown hay and dung. When I went to primary school in the early 60s we passed a field with the last working horse; all farms had tractors by then. We hardly saw farm machinery in this part of Romania. Ten yards after the village of Ciclova Romana ends Ciclova Montana begins. We stayed there in a village house, within walking distance of forests, meadows and the Cheile Nerei National Park. We tried local produce and experienced other aspects of village life, e.g. as we ate our first meal we heard bells from cows being driven home for milking. One day the water pump broke and we brought in water from the well in the garden and used the toilet there (which may have emptied into the river which rushed past).