I was lucky enough to learn quite a lot about the forestry of St Helena from working with Myra who ran the Forestry division. On the wall of her large office at the end of ANRD’s building, she had pieced together Photostat maps of the whole island. On this mosaic, the plantations were all marked and named, in a similar manner to the parcels up o Diana’s peaks were labelled for the conservation effort. There was a legal area of woodland, called the National Forest, some of which was now open ground, but this map showed the areas which had once been commercial forest. With a complicated coding system, the map also showed you what species existed in these forests. It was predominantly a type of pine tree and eucalyptus – that stalwart of colonial timber. But there were other coniferous and deciduous trees which meant a walk through these areas was always interesting and ever changing.
Four areas had more concentrations of woodlands than others, and they were places I found very special. The house I stayed at on my first visit was nestled in amongst Alarm Forest. To the South east of Diana’s Peaks was Levelwood. There was a village called Levelwood but it had no real centre – a place called Woody Ridge was about as close as you would get to a village green and the rest of the houses were scattered around the adjoining ridges. The main road below Diana’s Peaks zigzagged in and out of the forest. To the south west there were plenty of plantations hidden away in valleys below Blue Hill, and then around Scotland and Broad Bottom were some of the most picturesque wooded valleys.
As you dropped down beyond this Green Heartland, the soils became drier and the terrain less exposed. This drier area is given the term “Intermediate Zone” for planning purposes. More people lived here than close to the peaks and future development is focused here. The south east side of the island was more exposed, indeed the rest of the islanders could be quite rude about living in the most easterly village, Longwood, as it always seemed to be raining and have a vicious gales blowing in from the sea. Levelwood too was wet. More people settled in the St Paul’s district on the north west side, of which Scotland was at the top end.