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Upper Teesdale Juniper Dieback

Lock 1200

Submitted by Harriet Lock, Teesdale, Durham, England: Dying juniper trees

We awoke to soft but persistent rain. We were to be accompanied by someone with their children but I made the decision that it was best to leave the children at home, as children do not like sitting in the rain. What a wrong decision that was!

As I got ready to leave alone to honour the ground beneath the juniper, to connect with the microscopic bacteria that are attacking the juniper in this rare ecosystem, my fiance and children decided to come too, with dogs!

So, accompanied and rain-clad,  we made our way to the moorland where the largest expanse of juniper in the UK is. The rain became intermittent but wetting. Warm and muggy. As we reached the juniper I told my six year old that they were sick with an infection and that we had come to see them and feel their presence here. We had come to say ‘get well soon’ and to offer them a present of a bird. Both the children understood this simple task and they noticed with the fresh eyes that only the young have the beauty of the juniper, the young berries and tiny cones on them, and the decayed, brown limbs that showed how clearly the bacteria were trying to mage the living spirits the trees contain. At one point all three of us reached out our palms to a juniper and gave our loving healing energy to it. Underneath we noticed the new shoots of ferns and he runs of rabbits, safe and protected. Life abounds in this place!

At the furthest point of the area there is an enormous and powerful waterfall, High Force. Here the thunder of the water deafen and hypnotises.  My youngest, Freya, stood mesmorised by the fall and by the drop. She was silently absorbing the dynamism of the water, the stasis of the juniper. It was a beautiful moment to see how the presence of the place captivated her. I felt it too, through the motherly fear of not getting too close to the precipice!

As we returned we made the Rad Joy bird from grit and gravel in the path,  to not only honour the human footprint on the place but because we were very conscious to not take up flora and soil of the place, as the bacteria could be moved easily through the movement of biological materials.
We then diligently washed our boots in the disinfectant tubs that are provided to reduce the risk of the bacteria spreading. How humbled and grateful I feel that the moorland rangers are conscious of their role and provide such places. I’ve never seen the girls so thrilled to clean before!! This, like the bird, was a gift to the wider world. That we take these microscopic bacteria seriously and we will not play our part in its spread.

The GEX was a delight. Child – centred and humbling. I am so glad they came along and that they understood the wounds that are all around. I’m also so grateful that they gave gifts of themselves with love and joy.

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