In 2005 we took ownership of a lot with a small “civilized” area where we built a house, and a large “wild” area which is 60 feet below the house.  There is a steep bank with a winding path connecting the two areas, guaranteed to provide an aerobic workout going up and down. 

The wild area, which I call Riverwalk, is a floodplain of the Cowichan River, and is in a state of geologic transition.  A century or so ago, a loop of the river was cut off in favour of a straight channel, and since then the semi-circle of land has gradually become treed.  Today the area partially floods when the river level rises above about two meters — since we’ve been here about two ot three times a year.

In spite of the periodic floods, the land has 100 foot tall cottonwoods, many of which have reached the end of their lives and now qualify as wildlife trees, and a second wave of trees including big leaf maples, and occasional conifers such as western red cedar and grand fir.  There is also one incredible douglasfir about a third of the way up the bank, which often serves as a roost for the resident ravens.

Below the large trees are hazelnuts, indian plum, red osier dogwood and snowberry.  The floor of the forest has sword ferns, and a varying numbers of other species — the variety dependent on how thick the invading English ivy is.  In some places if you remove the ivy there is nothing but bare dirt.  In others, some of the native species are still surviving.

Since we moved in our project has been to destroy the ivy (and some other invaders such as spurge daphne and English holly) and return the land to something similar to its natural state.  I say “something similar” because this is a residential area, and there is going to be a certain amount of “drift” from gardens — there are two patches of daffodils, and one part of the bank is glorious in snowdrops in the early spring.  Although a purist would remove such alien species, we are beginning by allowing such limited intrusions, while removing agressive invaders.

I hope that this blog will help others contemplating similar projects, and invite comments and stories of your experiences.   


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