Daniel Greenwood

The language of leaves


Białowieża, Europe’s mythical forest


In March 2016 I visited Białowieża National Park in Podlasia, north-east Poland. Białowieża is somewhere I have wanted to visit for several years after reading about it and hearing from friends (especially Poles) who had been there. It is described as Europe’s last remnant of primeval woodland (12-10,000 years old), a slight exaggeration recycled on social media and subsequently in news items. The Czech Republic has numerous stands of ‘virgin’ forest or woodland though not on the scale of Białowieża, which is probably the largest remaining tract of ancient European woodland due to the 5,000 hectare strict reserve which is said never to have been logged.


Saving South Moravia’s butterfly paradise

Michail blog pic-1

The countryside surrounding the town of Ždánice in the South Moravian region of the Czech Republic is a wildlife paradise. South Moravia is close to the Slovakian border and is known locally as Slovacko. The meadows of Hobruvky that sit below the vast beech woods of Ždánicky Les are home to over 80 species of butterfly. However, these meadows have been unmanaged and are returning to scrub, losing the range of butterflies, orchids and other wildlife dependent on their species richness. People have lived in harmony with the landscape for centuries managing these meadows and conservationists Zuzana Veverkova and Michail Valenta (pictured above with his two sons) have teamed up to bring these meadows back to life. Michail has constructed a barn for his sheep and goats that graze that hillside and a campsite for visitors to the area.
This is one of my favourite places to visit. Please consider visiting this wildlife haven (the best times are from April-July for insects, plants and birds) and have a look at the links below.


The treasures of Transylvania

Eddie and Laci blog pic-1

The hay meadows of the Carpathian Basin close to the city of Miercurea Ciuc in Hungarian-speaking Romania are some of the richest in the world. But these meadows are now being lost to secondary growth of Norway spruce and scrub as the land is abandoned and sustainable land management diminishes. There is, however, a project to reverse this decline and raise awareness about the importance of these meadows, situated in stunning landscapes bordered by vast woods home to wolf, bear, lynx, boar and more. The Barbara Knowles Fund is promoting this work through a series of events and annual summer haymaking camps in the region in August of each year. Please see more through the links below:


European Conservation Action Network (EuCAN)

Picos team-1

The European Conservation Action Network (EuCAN) Community Interest Company is one of the great conservation groups operating in Britain today. Led by Nigel Spring and operating out of Dorset, EuCAN run conservation projects weekly in Dorset, and across Europe with a variety of partners taking in some of the most amazing wildlife and landscapes. EuCAN is keen to promote environmentally sustainable travel and all the trips are undertaken through a mixture of minivan, train and ferry to reach the partners in Europe. EuCAN run annual training weekends and you can become a member of the group. Please see more below:


The Great Hungarian Plain

Hortobagy blog pics-1

Hortobágy is a small town in the heart of the Hortobágy National Park, three hours east of Budapest by train and a little bit to the west of Debrecen. The area is a magnet for wildlife enthusiasts and we were visiting on our way to Romania by train. The main focus of our visit, being without a car and dependent on public transport, was the fishpond complex known as Hortobágy-Halastó (Halastó meaning ‘fishponds’ in Hungarian). Halastó was ‘dripping’ with birdlife. This vast area of water was cut through with a single gauge railway (which we never used) and a mile-long, single file footpath. We saw a long-eared owl sleeping in a bird box, six eagles in the sky at once, marsh harrier at every turn and many other wonderful species. In the town, storks cavorted in front gardens and battled for prominence on streetlamp platforms placed there to support the storks. I had wanted to visit the region for several years after reading Patrick Leigh Fermor’s 1934 account in Between the Woods and the Water, as the teenage Fermor travelled from Rotterdam to Instanbul on foot. To see this area of land over ground hid none of Europe’s failings: people living in rubbish, vast areas of land devastated by extractive industries, huge infrastructure projects half built and deserted, rivers channelled, concreted and their banks denuded, and more rubbish, so much rubbish. But we met wonderful people who invited us into their homes and villages and guided us around the lands they call their own.


2 Responses to “Europe”

    • D. Greenwood

      Thanks again, yes, it’s one thing to sit and admire, but we can’t forget that our wildlife and green spaces are under threat.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS