Exploring Mountains in North Wales

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Journey to North Wales

Upon moving back to Britain for several years, having previously worked and studied in some of the world’s most exotic locations, I have certainly been guilty of grumpily overlooking the breath-taking beauty that can be found right here in the UK. I am sure I’m not the only one to dream of the exotic beaches of the Caribbean, the mountainous Rainforests of Peru or the beautiful volcanic expanses of Iceland and wish that I could be anywhere other than dreary old Britain. With its rain, lack of volcanoes and tropical lifestyles it can often feel like a bit of a bore.

Sometimes we become so immune to how lucky we are that we stop seeing the beauty in our own lives. With that sentimental thought in mind, let me take you to my summer 2016, where my love and appreciation of British nature was reignited by a short trip to North Wales.

The Journey
The Journey

In June 2016 I signed up to take an ecology course in and around Cwm Idwal, a mountainous region in the North of Snowdonia. I had some reservations about going, partly because it was so close to the leaving date for my research in Madagascar, and partly because I was convinced that it would be pouring with rain the whole time. What if I missed the two weeks of sun that makes up the entirety of English summer? I would be devastated.

Much to my surprise and immense happiness, we arrived in Wales via a travel sickness-inducing minibus right at the beginning of a two week heatwave, one which would begin on our third day and end the day that we left. I would like to thank the God of weather for that, praise be to sunshine.

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Cwm Idwal National Nature Reserve

Our first stop was Cwm Idwal itself, the hanging valley where Llyn Idwal can be found pooled in its centre. This particular day was intermittently torrential, the last hacking cough and sneeze from the clouds that would be wiped away by the next day. We trod through the valley, learning about its geological history and marvelling at the quartz that strikes its grooves into bare rock.

Despite wading through the rain, breathing in more water than air, I couldn’t help enjoying myself. The place is phenomenal. It’s strong and massive without being domineering, the grassy patches run up the sides of mountains making way for thin waterfalls. Scrambling along rocky river banks, my soggy sandwiches long-forgotten, I discovered worlds which could’ve been the setting of ancient Welsh folklore. Surrounded in mist, the river hurried along and I slid around the rocks, trying to imagine what this place would have looked like millions of years ago.

In the Ordovician period (485-443 million years ago) the region of Cwm Idwal was covered in a shallow ocean. Sedimentary rock formed through layers of compression on the ocean bed, along with igneous rock formed from the larva of volcanoes. Tectonic plate movement eventually caused these layers to fold together and rise up forming the Idwal Syncline. Glaciation during the ice age eroded and shaped the land to the landscape that can be seen today.

We sampled plenty of freshwater sites around Cwm Idwal, searching for invertebrates as indicators of the water quality in relation to its surroundings. I spent a lot of time in outrageously long wellies. Rivers and lakes are teaming with life far beyond just fish and ducks. Take a closer look next time you find yourself at a water body, really look, and you’ll see hundreds of tiny invertebrates whizzing around the water, skating over the surface or rummaging through the beds. These tiny organisms are vital indicators for pollution levels and are irreplaceable food sources for many other amphibians, fish and wildlife.

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Research in my Wellies.

Cwm Idwal National Nature Reserve Tips

The tracks and paths are well-maintained and clear, though it is easy to wander off them and explore a little more. If you want to take things further, there are plenty of opportunities for rock climbing. Plenty of the climbs are easy but there are certainly more difficult ones to be found. So if you are a climber, Cwm Idwal is definitely somewhere you will want to check out in the North of Wales.

Parys Mountain

From the stunning natural landforms of Cwm Idwal to something completely different: The man-made lakes and hills of the deceptively named Parys Mountain. When I heard we would be hiking around Parys Mountain (in my head, Paris Mountain) surveying lakes in the boiling sun, I had beautiful visions of Mount Snowdon Mark 2. I expected a suave, mountainous area covered in flowers and all the natural beauty that Wales had to offer. This was not the case.

Parys Mountain is an abandoned copper mine. It’s not a mountain, it’s a pit. But a gorgeous one at least, located in north east Anglesey. You can imagine my surprise when we pulled up to completely flat land, and had it announced that this was Parys Mountain. Despite my disappointment I was quickly enthralled by this Mars-like dusty red area, full of warning signs and holes in the land just begging to be explored. 

Parys Mountain
Parys Mountain

The history of Parys Mountain makes it particularly special. The mine dates back to thousands of years ago during the Bronze Age, where the mining of the copper ore first began. This was discovered when mining resumed here in the 18th century, and it was quickly realised that they were following in the footsteps of others.

Various castoffs of the mining process still remain in Parys mountain, polluting the water causing various surreal colouration’s of reservoirs. Once again, we were surveying invertebrates to determine the impact of these different contaminations on local wildlife. Not much other wildlife survives here due to the high levels of pollution and soil contamination. 

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Reservoirs at Parys Mountain

Parys Mountain Tip

I didn’t realise this at the time, but there are actually some sections of the mine you are allowed to enter with the correct guidance and equipment. For more information and to arrange a tour, contact the Parys Underground Group. Definitely my plan for next time!

Mount Snowdon

Of course our trip would never be complete without an arduous climb up Mount Snowdon. Dogs and children bounded ahead of us as we struggled our way up an increasingly cold mountainside. I developed a fear of heights four to five years ago after falling off a cliff in Australia, and had only recently recovered in part due to working at a theatre with a very, very high Upper Circle level. I was concerned that I would panic the whole way up the mountain, but I think that when you are somewhere inspiring, things like fears begin to matter less and ebb away. I walked close to the edge to challenge myself not to feel scared, and by the time I got to the top of the mountain I was happily dangling my feet over the edge, thrilled that Wales had thrown my fear of heights out of my brain and off the mountaintop. I got the most pleasant feeling being up high and seeing birds flying lower than me. I spend so much time feeling jealous of birds, that it feels pretty good to be higher up than them for once.

I'm on the edge.
On the edge.

Mount Snowdon Tip

I was looking forward to getting the old train back down the mountain, but when I got to the top we discovered that the train is about four times more expensive to get back down than it is to go up. Presumably this is to take advantage of exhausted climbers. I wasn’t exhausted I just really like trains, and was pretty sad to have to use my boring feet again. If you want to get the train I’d strongly recommend getting the train up and walking back down, you’ll be able to enjoy the scenery just as much.

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My Impressions of North Wales

After leaving Wales I swore I would be back, and soon. I’d spent a large portion of my trip imagining how I would go about moving to Wales (as I do with everywhere I go), and what kind of house I would live in (A teeny cottage in a valley by a tree, FYI). I felt I’d connected more with the nature on my (almost) home-turf, and couldn’t wait to get back home and start exploring my beautiful forests and hills again.

General Advice for Visiting North Wales

Despite our luck with fairly consistent hot and clear weather, it can change in a matter of minutes. Bring waterproofs, sunscreen and plenty of layers. Make sure that you visit the towns and villages nearby as they themselves provide a quirky insight into how life has flourished in the beautiful North. Go places and do things you’d normally shy away from, there are plenty of incredible places to go and things to see, all you need is time. 

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Base Camp Life in Madagascar

Mouse lemur - Taken by Lewis Kramer

After a much needed 10 hours sleep, I awoke to the sounds of the ever-loud and excited base camp. I decided to spend the morning out in the forest doing a forest survey. What surprised me the most about the forest was that it didn’t feel totally different to other forests I’ve been to around Europe. Sure it was hot and dry which obviously marred my ability to make any comparison between this forest and the UK, but the trees of dry, deciduous forests have to be experts at retaining water and are therefore limited in the size that they can grow. This resulted in the trees being relatively short and quite thin. It was a shame that very few of the plants were in flower at this time of year, making the majority-endemic tree species even harder to identify.

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Tree in Mahamavo forest – Taken by Hannah Williams.

I love forest surveys because they give you the opportunity to get to know a forest more intimately than other surveys allow. You go off-trail into the forest, stomping around in the undergrowth and tripping over logs just as you should be. Also, trees don’t run away from you and hide. They just sit there waiting to greet you. You can study them as closely as you want and, as I said before, I enjoy the natural obstacle course that it takes to get to them.

A forest plot in this instance consisted of going to a predetermined site and marking out a 20mX20m transect. Every tree within that transect would then have their circumference measured at breast height and their height estimated. The canopy cover would also be recorded and a separate 2mX2m transect would be laid out in order to take a sapling count.

Back at base camp I had my very first jungle shower; a bucket and cup in a sectioned off area of camp. It was awesome actually. When you get back from a survey all dusty and sweaty with the contents of the entire forest in your hair, as I often did, it was so refreshing to pour a bucket of water over yourself. On my way back to the tent I had my first encounter with lemurs. There is a colony of Coquerel’s Sifaka’s that passed over camp almost every day. Their main aim seemed to be to steal bait from the lemur researchers but they seemed almost as interested in us as we were in them. One of my friends had a dream that the lemurs were conducting a human behaviour survey on us from the trees. Sounded about right. It was brilliant to watch the way they moved, jumping between the trees like a gang of extremely agile babies.

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Lemur colony
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Agile babies
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look at them fly!
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SO climby
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Lemur Love <3

I also had a stab at doing my laundry, this too was a bucket based system (one which umpteen visiting sixth former’s would complain about). The Malagasy staff had it on point, the western staff did not. I just chucked everything in a bucket with some soap and swooshed it around a bit until it didn’t smell quite so bad anymore. I later found out from my friend Rindra (spelt Reindra throughout my journal, thank goodness for facebook), a botanist from the capital city Antananarivo in Madagascar, that it was normal for the vast majority of people all over Madagascar to hand wash clothes. She found it strange that most people, even the poorer people in England, have washing machines. She’d also never heard of a dishwasher before which was fun to explain. (You put all your dirty dishes in a machine, close the door, press start and go shopping. When you get back, it’s done). She thought that English people must be very lazy, and I couldn’t really argue with that.

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Staff members Ali, Michael and Jenni demonstrating beautifully.

I also took time out of my busy first day to take part in one of the most important activities in Madagascar; lying in a hammock. Hammocks are man’s gift to the world and I would like to thank Dr. Hammock for bringing such a glorious invention into being. I napped in hammocks, I chatted to friends in hammocks, I read in hammocks, I stared at the lemurs passing overhead from hammocks and I recovered from hangovers and stomach bugs in hammocks. Since returning to England, I am now the proud owner of a hammock. But it’s basically winter now so will have to wait another year for that one week of summer.

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Fun game – how many people can you fit in a hammock without it falling down? Answer: not four. L-R Georgie, Emily, Jen and me, all dissertation students.

Lunch was rice and beans. I don’t just mean on this day, I mean every day. There were small beans, big beans, medium beans, large beans… Everyone had a favourite bean. What started out as ‘hmm, this is actually quite nice, healthy too, maybe I should make this sort of thing for lunch back in England’ quickly became ‘If anyone so much as shows me another bowl of rice and beans I will drown their face in it’. Our saviour came in the form of Grazella who was at base camp making and selling the most delicious samosas I have ever put in my face. They were often my substitute for lunch, and when she started selling bread it was samosa sandwiches all round. Grazella was making and selling samosas to save money for a master’s in agriculture, so I thought the right thing to do was to buy as many as humanly possible, for Grazella of course. The sacrifices I make for my friends.

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Grazella

Late in the afternoon it was finally time to meet with my supervisors to discuss my dissertation. I was pretty confident that I had a well thought through and feasible proposal which just needed a tweak here and a smoothing out there. One of the supervisors emphatically disagreed and it was back to the drawing board for me. That was a bit of a downer, I have an enormous fear of being found out as a fraud, of people going ‘hang on, she’s actually really stupid and crap at science’. I know I’m not alone in this, and I’m not just talking about science. It was a bit of a setback and I spent the rest of the day (and night) in my tent fretting about what to do, reading over the limited number of papers I’d been able to download before arriving on camp where there was no internet.

I’m a classic case in that I constantly have to battle through the feeling of ‘I am finding this task difficult, therefore if I don’t try at all then I can still convince myself that I am good at this thing’. I think writers especially are notoriously bad for this. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve given up on a story or novel because I found the first draft too difficult to get through, it’s taken me years to get past that. At the end of the day, failure is good. If you don’t try hard at something you are allowing your fear of failure to outweigh your determination for success. It’s best to just view your failures as the foundations on which to build your successes.

The following day, after a lot more reading and conversations with my other supervisor Joe, I managed to come up with something that had a bit more structure and a bit more focus. For day two I was quite pleased with that, and now that I could relax a little I was actually pretty happy with how seriously our projects were being taken, and how quickly the scientists were working with us to make sure we developed a clear structure for ourselves over the next six weeks.

I spent the rest of the day recovering from the trauma that is interpreting strings of scientific papers for hours. This recovery was mostly hammock based, see below.

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This is the worst photo I have ever seen of myself, and that includes the ones taken of me whilst going through puberty.

In the evening I went out on my first invertebrate night survey. I’m not a night time person and all of my research was conducted during the day so I often spent the evenings working on my project or fannying around with other staff and students. (Sidenote: I’m also not a morning person. I’m really more of a 10am-3pm kind of person. Modern life is a struggle for me.) This survey was easily my favourite night survey that I did whilst in Madagascar due to the amount that I saw, and the excitement I felt with it being my first time out at night. There is something magic about the forest at night time (unless you’re somewhere like Luton of course, then it’s just scary and you should leave). The moonlight hits the leaves and branches of trees overhead creating ethereal shadows as you stumble through, trying to make out the outlines of any creatures around. What I’m trying to say is, my headtorch didn’t work very well and I fell over a lot.­

I saw oustalets and Angels chameleon’s as well as mouse lemurs, spiders and a praying mantis. We were actually collecting moths which I was pretty terrible at, but the place was just teaming with wildlife. I’m pretty bad at keeping my camera on me for these kinds of things. I do love photography but I sometimes find if I carry my camera around I have this niggling feeling in my chest that I need to be documenting everything, and honestly I’d rather just enjoy the moment and write thousands of words about it later. So instead, here are a load of photos that I’ve stolen from my friends:

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Oustalet’s Chameleon-taken by Dave Andrews
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Angel’s Chameleon – Taken by Dave Andrews
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Mouse lemur – Taken by Lewis Kramer

When we returned to base camp, we played one of many, many hundreds of games of bananagrams (speed scrabble) that took place during the expedition. We also played ‘dirty words only’ bananagrams and I’m still pretty proud of myself that I managed to get ‘rimjob’.

The next morning saw me go on the first of many hundreds of botany plots. This was where the bulk of my data was coming from, and also where I first properly met my friends Rindra, Liantsoa (whose name I have spelt as ‘Leanne-Sue’ throughout my journal), and Harison (I managed to get his name right, give or take an ‘r’ here or an ‘s’ there). They were the funniest group of people ever to work with. They are all Malagasy botanists and knew a lot more than I did about literally everything. It was an honour to work with them, not to mention an enormous amount of fun. We definitely didn’t always understand each other, it is a pity but I can currently only declare myself fluent in English (though I’m coming for you, Spanish!), so I’m not much use when it comes to communicating in a foreign language, other than cracking out the occasional ‘Ou est la bibliotheque?’ or ‘Je suis on sort au cinema’. The Malagasy staff however nearly always had at least three languages on the go; Malagasy, French and English, as well as some knowledge of other Malagasy dialects. Wow. They would apologize to me for not getting a word exactly right in English or not understanding the fast-talking nonsense that comes out of my mouth. I’d say you definitely can’t apologise to me when my Malagasy is non-existent, and unless you want to listen to me talk about my cat for five minutes my French isn’t much more use.

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Only picture on my computer right now with all three of us… I’ll explain later. L-R Liantsoa, me and Rindra. Above is Laurence, another staff member and amazing singer!

 I did eventually pluck up the courage to learn a little bit of Malagasy from them, but I certainly did not do as much as I should have. It is a privilege to be able to communicate with people all over the world in all kinds of different cultures, and it’s sad that it is not inherent in us, mostly English-speaking people, to make the effort to learn other languages. For instance, we had an amazing guide from the local village called Theo who did nearly all of the plant identification for us. As there are so many different ecosystems in Madagascar containing so many different kinds of trees, not to mention that none of them were flowering, they were incredibly difficult to identify and tell apart. If we had had to go around with books there is simply no way I or anyone else would’ve been able to do their botany research, but because we had Theo it was possible. But I couldn’t communicate with Theo. Here was this awesome person with a mind full of ethnobotany and I couldn’t discuss anything with him. There was some translation through the others of English to Malagasy to a different dialect and back again, but it was difficult.

The way I see it, is that every one of us holds an entire library that only we have access to, and if you want to hear these other stories then you have to talk to people. But if you don’t study languages, you are missing out on the stories that are least similar to your own, and I do love a story.

That is why I now have French and Spanish duolingo.

More next week on botany research and camp life!

click on the link to catch up on last weeks post detailing my jouney fron London to Mahamavo: https://lifeforaforest.com/2016/08/29/travel-in-madagascar/

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What is ‘Life for a Forest’ Trying to Achieve?

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AAnd more importantly, why should you care?

I’ve told you a bit about my background and the journey that led me to be an avid writer in my last blog post, but now I’d like to focus more on the blog itself.

I think it is so important for us to remember that we are all part of nature too.  It sounds obvious but it’s easy to forget, what with our cement walls, daily work/study stresses and our mortgages.  We need to be confronted with the beauty and importance of nature more often, or we will forget as a species who we are and where we come from.

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I want to connect with people who love nature, but also people who don’t see what the big deal is.  I want to connect with students, teachers, professionals or unprofessionals who just can’t get enough of consuming information.  I also want to connect with people who can help me on my own journey; to explore and understand as much of this world’s ecosystems before I die.

That’s where I hope that my blog comes in.  Through different approaches, such as haunted forests, orgasmic mushrooms and personal experiences, I hope to bring to peoples laptops, phones and tablets a little piece of wonder for the planet that they are a part of.

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What I wanted to achieve when I started this blog at the end of 2013, was the following:

  • Create a platform to serve as an outlet for my interests of writing and environment.
  • Use this platform to educate others on the importance and wonders of our natural world.

I wasn’t sure how much interest my writing and the topics I wrote about would garner, and I suppose I didn’t really mind, so I decided to set my expectations as ‘anyone other than my family telling me they like it’ (not that my family’s support is worth less, the opposite actually, they are my most honest critics, but also my biggest fans).

To my great pleasure this goal has been far surpassed, and every day when I check my statistics I am thrilled to see the ever growing upward slope of the number of viewers and subscribers to my work.

I’ve also received job offers, and offers of work experience abroad as a result.  I’ve had my posts shared by others to thousands of their followers, and much to my very pleasant surprise, even received generous donations for my upcoming tropical botany dissertation.

Now that I’ve reached a comfortable position, it’s time to set some bigger goals:

  • Expand my readership and reach, by spending more time on marketing and advertising my blog.
  • Publish a new post regularly each Monday.
  • Inject more of my personality into each new blog post.
  • Expand on the types of posts that I publish.
  • Eat less chocolate whilst writing remain realistic with my goals.

I read everywhere that goals should never be vague, but I like vague goals.  They’re less intimidating and force you to regularly check on them.  Plus, you allow yourself more space to be creative.

I have so many ideas for possible posts; scientists and explorers, my own experiences in nature, extraordinary species, threats to the environment, people who have adapted to harsh natural conditions… the lists go on.

I hope you will join me in this journey, and want to share it with others.

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The Molai Woods – One Mans Forest

Jadav 'Molai' Payeng

The Molai Woods are a phenomenal achievement for human kind.  Why?  Because the 1360 acre forest was planted and cared for by just one man; Jadav ‘Molai’ Payeng.  His huge accomplishment shows what one person can achieve in their lifetime if they have the passion to fully commit themselves.

Brahmaputra River, Assam, India
Brahmaputra River, Assam, India

The forest is located in India’s Assam region, on the Jorhat sandbar in the Brahmaputra River. Now in his mid-fifties, Payeng has spent over 30 years of his life changing the landscape of 1360 acres of India, on a barren sandbar.  The woods have aptly been named the Molai Woods, after its creator’s nickname.

Brahmaputra River Map
Brahmaputra River Map

His motivation came in 1979, when he was just 16 years old.  Huge floods had washed a great number of snakes onto the sandbar but when Payeng found them, they were all dead.  He noted that the snakes had died of dehydration and overheating due to lack of tree cover and, in his words, he “sat down and wept over their lifeless forms”.  A devastated Payeng then alerted the forest department to request that they grow trees there, but they insisted nothing would grow and asked Payeng to attempt to grow bamboo there instead.  As he recalls “It was painful, but I did it.  There was nobody to help me.  Nobody was interested”.

Bamboo Thicket
Bamboo Thicket

He painstakingly planted seeds by hand, watered them every morning and evening, pruned and cultivated the land until it was a huge bamboo thicket.  He then began to collect and plant a wide range of tree species, but his commitment didn’t stop there, Payeng transported red ants from his village to the sand bar as they change the soils properties.  Despite the constant stinging, discomfort and long travels he persevered.  He shows a deep understanding of the ecological balance of life which has enabled him to create this incredible self-functioning forest.

Red ants, India
Red ants, India

Payeng never stopped growing.  Despite the pain, the slowness and the solitude he continued and has never stopped since.  Thanks to Payeng, this once barren sand bar is now a sprawling forest with an astounding level of biodiversity.  The forest consists of several thousand varieties of trees, flora and fauna as well as a multitude of bird species including vultures and migratory birds which flock here, hundreds of apes, deer, cattle and rabbits, three rhinos including the endangered one-horned rhino and four tigers including the endangered royal Bengal tiger.  Every year a herd of approximately 100 elephants enter the forest for 6 months at a time and sometimes even give birth to their calves here.  All because of one man’s efforts.  Some of these animals are endangered due to habitat loss in the first place, Payeng has worked his whole life and thanks to his commitment can work on reversing this trend, and provide a safe haven for these animals.

One-Horned Rhino, Assam, India
One-Horned Rhino, Assam, India
White Rumped Vulture, Assam, India
White Rumped Vulture, Assam, India
Male Swamp Deer, Assam, India
Male Swamp Deer, Assam, India
King Bengal Tiger, India
King Bengal Tiger, India
Elephant Herd, Assam, India
Elephant Herd, Assam, India

Payeng lives a life of isolation in order to cultivate his forest.  He began this life as a teenager and never looked back.  He is not totally alone though, he shares his small hut with a wife and three children.  They make their living selling cow and buffalo milk.

Another amazing factor in this story is that Payeng’s forest was only heard of by officials from Assam’s State Forest Department in 2008!  This was only because a herd of around 100 wild elephants strayed into the forest after hassling villages nearby. The Assistant Conservator of Forests, Gunin Saika says “We were surprised to find such a dense forest on the sandbar” he states that it could potentially be the world’s largest forest in the middle of a river.

Map of India
Map of India

Locals living near Molai have however caused problems and heartache for Payeng and his forest.  At one time locals wanted to cut down the forest due to the larger animals such as the rhinos and elephants destroying their homes and land nearby, but Payeng dared them to kill him instead.  Of course they did not and the forest remains.  However locals also killed a rhino in the forest which bothered Payeng, after all the forest is his doing and he wants its inhabitants protected.

Officials have begun to pitch in recently, and the forest continues to grow.  Saikia explains the reason for Assam State’s forest department stepping in to assist Payeng ‘He treats the trees and animals like his own children.  Seeing this, we, too, decided to pitch in.  We’re amazed at Payeng.  He has been at it for over 30 years.  Had he been in any other country, he would have been made a hero.’  The government are now focusing efforts into this area and are planning to extend the forest by another 1235 acres.  Previously Payeng had no assistance outside of himself, not from the government, not from anyone other than his local ministry which occasionally donated saplings.  There is also pressure on the government by Payeng and his supporters to declare the Mulai forest as a small animal sanctuary.  Payeng has stated that if this occurs, and he has definite assurance that his forest and its inhabitants will be protected, then he will move out and commence creating a new forest ecosystem elsewhere, wherever it is required.

The Indian government tells a different version of events to Payeng’s which goes as follows.

According to assistant conservator of forest Gunin Saika, during the 1980’s the districts Social Forestry Division of Assam’s Golaghat District was working on a project to plant 494 acres of trees in this location.  He claims that Payeng was one of the labourers who worked on this project which was completed in 5 years, after which all labourers left; except for Payeng.  He stayed behind to continue to expand the forest.

Whichever version of this story is the truth, no one can doubt that this man, Judav ‘Molai’ Payeng, has and is dedicating his entire life to the cultivation and subsequent protection of this unique jungle on a once desolate and lifeless sandbar in India.  He is a remarkable man and can show us what we are capable of with the right amount of passion and commitment.

Jadav 'Molai' Payeng
Jadav ‘Molai’ Payeng
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Krzywy Las (The Crooked Forest) – Poland

Krzywy Las (translation – the crooked forest) is a Forest in the village of Nowe Czarnowo in North-Western Poland.  Here is a video of some Polish people sitting on trees:

As you can see, the name of the place says it all.   This grove of approximately 400 trees grows at a 90 degree, northward facing angle, before continuing to grow vertically upwards. The grove is then surrounded by a larger forest of vertically straight pine trees.  The area in which the trees grow belonged to Germany up until 1945.  It is thought that they were planted by Germans in the 1930’s, who then allowed the saplings to grow for 7-10 years before restricting their growth for a while, creating the unusual shape today.  This could have been done by carpenters planning on making furniture/timber requiring a specialised tree shape.  However no one knows for sure if this is how and why this unusual grove has occurred   I personally believe it is much more interesting to think of it in a Hans Christian Andersen fairy-tale kind of way.

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