Get Lost in a Forest - West Wind Hardwood

Sometimes you just don’t know how important something is until it’s gone, or until you go somewhere that doesn’t have it.  Travel is that way.   Much can be learned by watching the land from the window of an airplane, train, or car. It opens the eyes; gives one pause to say, ‘Wow, I had no idea’.  Forests can be that way too.

But what is a forest?  The food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines forest land as an area where the tree canopy covers more than 10% of the total area and the trees, when mature, can grow to a height of more than 15 feet.  It does not include land that is predominantly urban or used for agricultural purposes.  And land that temporarily has no trees can still be considered forest when the disturbance is known to be temporary and trees are expected to grow back soon (i.e., after harvesting). Naturally caused additions/removals of tree cover (i.e., fire or pests) are included.

Stats…well, they can be manipulated any which way but here I go.  Forested area: (as of 2010) Denmark has 12.8%, the UK has 11.9%, Australia has 19.4%, Germany has 31.8% and Canada has a whopping 42%.

image001 image003

Photos by Jan Nielsen – December 2011 – Denmark
Notice the farmer has tilled around the mound of trees; I am told most of these mounds reflect Viking burials (Left)
Beech Tree Forest with Jan’s Cousin/Wife and Me (Shelley) (Right)

image005 image007

Photos by Jan Nielsen – Germany – December 2009
Oli Lacke Factory surrounded by a forest in Lichtenau (near Dresden) (Left)
View from the train ride from Frankfurt to Dresden (Right)


Photo by Jan Nielsen – September 2004 – Cotswold’s, UK
This is about as wild and wooly as Southern England gets J
Wrong locale but brings to mind Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

Canadians have more forest area per capita than do residents in most other countries.  Shoot me in the foot for the statistics but there is no denying we live in a forest-rich region of the world.  With that comes some level of responsibility for the forests; our natural surroundings.  This is neither a political forum nor a platform for debate. Some say we could be producing more wood, recreational opportunities and other benefits without compromising forest health; others beg to differ.

image011 image013 image015 image017

Photos by Jan Nielsen – July 2007 – Bowren Lake Circuit
Supernatural British Columbia with Cousins from Denmark

We’ve spent time in Denmark with family; in the UK with friends.  These are beautiful countries with fascinating histories and landscapes; not much in the way of forests…by my definition of forests.  By comparison, Australia is a country of contrasts; polarized cultures, diverse landscape, killer weather.

Flying over northern Europe and Great Britain, it is obvious that most of the manicured landscape is filled with farms and cities.

image019 image021

Photos by Jan Nielsen – September 2004 Denmark (left) and UK (right)
You get a sense of the structured, well controlled land use.

Most of Europe’s forest, especially northern Europe, was removed centuries ago, first by glaciers, then by humans.  There is little pristine acreage remaining. However, Europeans extract everything they can out of a limited forest resource while maintaining delightful landscapes. We are a long way from producing the volume and variety of outputs per acre that the European forests do.

By comparison, Australia – like Canada – is a young, sprawling country that still has wild, unpopulated places.


Photo by Jan Nielsen – December 2015 – Western Australia
Lots of arid land – Full of alkaline lakes and shrubby trees

My limited experience is Western Australia; home of the great forests of Karri and Red Tingle trees (Refer to Newsletter #63) with the occasional jarrah left standing and well documented; well celebrated.

image025 image027

Photos by Jan Nielsen – December 2015 – Dwellingup, Western Australia
A lone King Jarrah Tree amidst the forest

I understand they, like Canada, are undergoing the stresses of logging, demand and supply; rectifying past transgressions of over-logging; addressing the future; planning today, for a greatly increased demand tomorrow.  Are there lessons to be learned by our European cousins?  Those who’ve had more experience with the dialogue between forests and people; where ‘nature’ is designed through landscape architecture.

image029 image031

Photos by Jan Nielsen
Frederiksborg Castle, Hillerød, Denmark – January 2012 (left) and Versailles Palace, France – August 2001 (right)
Very structured; very controlled; true landscape architecture


Photo by Jan Nielsen
Jardins D’Austria, Park Güell, Barcelona – August 2001
Gaudí was fascinated by both the natural world and geometry

Nevertheless, it’s been interesting observing homes outside of Canada and for that matter, the US.  Construction materials so depend on culture, weather and available material. An oft asked question is “Do you live in a wooden house?”  Few people in Denmark or the UK do.  It’s mostly brick, stone, concrete; smaller and compact, reflecting land availability and population density.

image035 image037

Photos by Jan Nielsen
Denmark – September 2004 – Small, Compact, No wood


Photo by Jan Nielsen
Oxford, UK – September 2004 – Tall, Narrow, No wood

image041 image043

Photos by Jan Nielsen – January 2016 – Halls Head, Western Australia
Single Story built to disperse the heat – Xeriscape landscaping

image045 image047

Photos by Jan Nielsen – North Saanich, BC
Wood Home and Roof, No Overhang, Lots of Trees
Let the light in.  Let the heat in.

In Australia the materials are similar; the design quite different; low and sprawling with wide overhangs to accommodate the summer heat.  Their homes are built to withstand and disburse high temperatures whilst ours in Canada are built to capture the warmth.  Taking into account our winter temperatures, the availability of wood coupled with our close proximity to fault lines and the associated earthquakes and tremors, wood becomes a ‘natural’ house building material for us.

Let’s celebrate our global diversity; our pride in our surroundings.  Send me a photo of your home.  How does it reflect the values and concepts I’ve discussed?  Let our home-grown pride shine!  Unless told otherwise, I’d love to feature what is near and dear to you and share these little pieces of yourself with our readers in the next newsletter.

Photos can be sent to me (Shelley) at  We had a fabulous time with my call many years ago for photos of ‘fires’.  Let’s see who will reach out this time!  Fingers crossed 🙂


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.