The Dello Scompiglio Project has always placed particular emphasis on the regeneration and development of identity and biodiversity within the landscape of the estate, particularly in the area that extends from the Park, characterised by fountains, nymphaea and a great variety of majestic trees, towards the Collina dell’Uccelliera (Aviary Hill) and the woods, embracing diverse environments and forms in a single garden.
The management of the Dello Scompiglio woods is entrusted to Francesco Tonelli and Giampiero Bartolomei, expert foresters from the Middle Serchio valley, whose personal histories have always been intertwined with the world of forests. They are joined by Paolo Carrara, one of the people responsible for the development of the landscape and tree-climber for targeted pruning and thinning.
“My father” says Giampiero Bartolomei “was a woodcutter. At first, I didn’t follow him, but after ten years of work experience in a factory, I decided that my life would be in the forests. Where I come from, these places are called ‘selve’ (wildwood). They are mostly chestnut groves, which coexist next to the so-called coppice woods. In these places I feel at home and I don’t see it as a contradiction to be cutting the plants that I take care of. I’ve cut woods that I’ve seen regrowing over the years, and I’m happy about this because I doing so, I’ve given them strength, since pruning gives new energy to the stumps and to the plants themselves.”
“My love for the forest,” says Francesco Tonelli, “has existed since I was a child. My father had a farm and went often into the forest. Although in my personal journey I attended high school, did military service and worked in a factory, I never left the forest.”
Good forest management takes into account many aspects, such as the protection of hydrogeological equilibrium and the general health of the species that constitute it.
Within the Tenuta Dello Scompiglio, the management of this particular ecosystem has seen a long recovery phase, during which the many forms of plant life that populate the estate have been freed of pest infestations, mostly maritime pines severely affected by cochineal, but also brambles and Ailanthus, which over the years had taken over. Tree cutting operations take place today in a controlled way, so as not to damage the underlying vegetation and the “matricine”, the particularly strong and robust ‘seedlings’ that regenerate the stumps and bring new energy to the woodland. It was a long and gradual process, during which, initially it was necessary to identify and clear the plants one by one.
Cecilia Bertoni, the creator of the Dello Scompiglio Project explains, “Years ago, the area surrounding one of the houses used today as a guesthouse for the artists in residence, was completely colonised by huge sick pines, a very invasive presence that disfigured the entire landscape. We therefore obtained permission to cut them down. Before doing this, however, we put a marker, a ribbon, on all the trees that needed to be saved. This meant that at the time of cutting, the marked trees must not be damaged by the falling pines. It was meticulous work, which, however, has given rise to a unique method of working and over the years has borne fruit”.
Thanks to this respectful and selective approach, some areas have completely changed their physiognomy over time.
“The area of the Vigna di Bosco (Forest Vineyard), where today you can find many wild ash trees,” continues Cecilia Bertoni, “was once a forest in which it was difficult to orientate yourself, full of sick trees, collapsed pines and brambles so robust that they could only be removed with a hacksaw. The path that winds along the Collina dell’Uccelliera was also gradually opened up, with shears, in between the brushwood. Sometimes we found that the weeds covered entire terraces, giving the illusion of full and passable spaces, when instead they were empty. In a way, the first time we discovered the real face of Collina dell’Uccelliera was beautiful.”
Even today, the management of the forest continues with the progressive replacement of weeds with native species such as sorbus, ash, downy oak, holm oak and oaks in general, holly, myrtle, strawberry tree, maple, but also camellias, mostly from the Dello Scompiglio nursery, and species that are proving able to adapt to climate change.
Large areas are constantly monitored, fencing off young plants that have seeded spontaneously. During the clearing phase, this system of flagging makes it possible to instantly recognise specimens that must be preserved, even when they are very small or almost indistinguishable from other species, because they lack foliage. In this way, new trees, already well adapted to the environment into which they have been introduced, will be able to grow freely, over time replacing the weed species.
Over time, the reinstating of new trees to the forest has also created opportunities for community activity, such as during the Festival of Trees held in November 2019, when all the collaborators of the Project planted, by hand, 270 young plants, in order to re-populate some of the wooded and landscaped areas of the estate. By creating a nutrient-rich humus, the species planted instead of the pines help to increase soil fertility, as well as provide refuge and shelter to more wild animals, especially birds. Because of this, both the park and the forest of the Tenuta Dello Scompiglio are part of the regional ecological network included in the Rete Natura 2000 initiative, the European level instrument to protect species of flora and fauna that are threatened or in danger of extinction, and the natural environments that host them.
The safety of the forest is guaranteed by safeguarding and protection measures, with the creation of firebreaks and other defensive systems. From the clearing work, plant residues are obtained, such as brash and timber. The former is left in place or used in the agricultural sections, to regenerate the soil fertility by providing valuable nutrients; the latter, after being stored and dried, is transformed into high quality wood chip, which powers the heating system of some of the estate buildings.