Where were all the trees ?

My grandfather took some colour 6×6 slides of the Lake District in 1936. ( Yes that is early for colour transparencies !). We found them a few years ago and decided to visit the Lakes and retake some of the shots as they are now. As they were all in Borrowdale it was quite easy to find the locations, but in nearly all the cases the shot was no longer there – all you could see now are trees. The hotel that we were staying in had a very old photograph ( 19th century ? ) of the Bowder Stone – a huge lump of rock that fell from nearby cliffs ( though legend says it’s an glacial erratic ) – and there are no trees near it. Go there now and it is engulfed by woodland. Turner’s picture of Rievaulx Abbey shows it from Rievaulx bridge, yet once again stand there now and all you will see are trees.


We’ve seen this on other very old photographs or paintings around the country. It seems that the landscape in days gone by was much more open than it is now, there was not the same amount of trees about other than in woodland. Why was this ? I presume that until relatively recent times there were domestic animals grazing in unfenced areas, continually eating off the young shoots so trees beside roads and rivers could never develop. Also perhaps the increased use of wood in older days may have contributed.

Am I right ? Please let me know.