Over the past few years, the Ettrick Valley has seen many of its farms planted with trees. Land which previously employed a good number of people and was home to an entire community is becoming more and more empty. The hills I have grown up surrounded by are becoming lifeless. There are very few people living in the valley and the population that is living in this remote area is becoming older and older.

This seems to be going unnoticed and there is little to no attempt being made to attract youngsters into upland farms.

Instead, forestry companies are coming into these areas and offering much more money than that which can be offered from those wishing to farm the land. Decades, possibly even centuries, of work have been put into building up bloodlines of sheep and in some cases cattle on these hills.

All of this will be lost if we continue to plant trees at the rate that we are at the moment. I wrote the following poem to illustrate my feelings towards this utterly tragic destruction of one of Scotland's most beautiful valleys:

An Elegy for Ettrick

The hills that I call home,

They are a part of me

With every undulation and their meagre population,

They let my mind be free.

The rivers run amongst them;

Round corners, trees, and braes

The water courses through them,

And always leaves a trace.

My hills of home are there to see,

Where sheep and cattle lie

Years of native blood is there,

We mustn't let them die.

The shepherd went about his day,

With purpose and some pride

But now trees are taking over

And all the shepherds hide.

My hills are getting bare now,

Not sheep or cattle there now

Traditions going with them;

Nobody there to keep them.

But never should we be forgetting,

The nature birds and bugs for letting,

Us humans and our pesky pets in

To what belongs to them.

Spruce and pine, all well and good,

When looked at on a map

But commercial forests are less than that,

They drain life like a tap.

The outside looks delightful;

All green and filled with life

But insides filled with black and brown;

It cuts you like a knife.

No longer hills like I remember,

Just blanket forestry

Is this what tourists flock for,

Now tell me honestly?

We must open up our eyes to see,

The damage we have done

Or old communities will die,

And nothing there will be.

Stuart Rendall