Foggy Forests of Ancient Trees Pruned for Charcoal in Basque Country
As in coppicing, the tradition of pollarding is to encourage the tree to produce new growth on a regular basis to maintain a supply of new wood for various purposes, particularly for fuel. In some areas, dried leafy branches are stored as winter fodder for stock. Depending upon the use of the cut material, the length of time between cutting will vary from one year for tree hay or withies, to five years or more for larger timber. Sometimes, only some of the regrown stems may be cut in a season – this is thought to reduce the chances of death of the tree when recutting long-neglected pollards.
Pollarding was preferred over coppicing in wood-pastures and other grazed areas, because animals would browse the regrowth from coppice stools. Historically, the right to pollard or "lop" was often granted to local people for fuel on common land or in royal forests; this was part of the right of Estover
Oskar Zapirain's photographs capture eerie forests cast in thick fog, hazy light descending upon the foliage in the same green shade that blankets the floor in moss. Zapirain has been attracted to this landscape for years because of the homogenous light as well as the way it forces the viewer directly into a mystical atmosphere.
The forest Zapirain features is a beech forest in Oiartzun, Basque Country in Northern Spain. This particular forest is unique due to the history charcoal production within the region. Instead of clearcutting like we do today, the trees were instead pruned to preserve the trees and maintain the integrity of the forest across generations. The trees have since regrown with short trunks and dramatically long limbs that shoot outward like arms from almost every angle, adding a ghostly feel to each of Zapirain’s photos. You can explore more of his work on Flickr.