The Plantation Loop

Flash fiction by Helen McClory, images by Karen McRae

I finished eating the cold block of Kendal mint cake and folded the wrapper up and put it in my pocket. My grandmother always sends me mint cake in the summer, which is when she wants me to be rambling. She sends little bars of lavender and rose soap too. While I prefer to eat the mint cakes in the winter when I need the refreshment. I had paused towards the end of my hike, heading off the hill and towards home as shadow was beginning to press against the steep rock flanks of the valley. The pass was straightforward even in deep snow, but there were two choices, the loop, or the direct, by which I had come. I chose the loop. Dark came and the temperature dropped, and I felt even better than I had on the summit. I put on my head torch, swung my arms and sang bits of song as they occurred to me. Then, ahead to one side of the quiet snow-blue path, I saw a figure, standing, hunched. I stopped.

It was no bigger than a child, and must have been a child, slim-built. But crooked, wrapped in heavy brown cloth like a monk’s robes, up to his knees in snow-cladding. I turned my head to one side – trying to keep the figure in the light without losing them, and saw the slope to the side of the path, where more and more of them were. The same crookedness, the same hooded, faceless features, all repeated with slight variation. On the ground, even, some lay stretched out, with others looking gravely over them. It had taken time for me to process the sight but eventually I came to realise I was looking at nothing, just a plantation of new saplings wrapped up in old jute against the cold by the park services. The soughing wind moved a few, bent them in my direction. Deep bows from the trees. I bowed back, and shaking my head, immediately sprang to walking again. WrappedTreesBW14 I had no urgent need to get home, there was no one waiting for me, and everything in my house would be clean and orderly. Dinner of game and potatoes in the slow cooker. My father’s vinyl collection to choose from for a soundtrack to the evening’s reading. But I began to walk faster. I did not seek out a reason for this. I simply no longer sang, but spent my energy following the spotlight from my head torch. I could see nothing more, and needed to see nothing more.

I could see nothing more than that light, and the path ahead which looped around the frozen lake, and this plantation, built where the old hotel had been. All down the gentle descent to the lake the wrapped trees stood, not moving, but always beside me. Keeping pace. But without moving, I told myself. The wind has music in it, and voices. Anyone who hikes by themselves often enough will tell you that. The landscape has animals in it, and avalanches waiting to powder and pound the slopes and anything that hazards to stand against its momentum. But a field of small, fragile trees, what are they, out in the dark snow – I pulled up my scarf to cover my face. Though I was still sure I could not find in myself anything like fear. I had long since overcome the ability to feel spontaneous unease, and felt no loss, as I had overcome many other losses in my quiet, homely life. It was only the chill increasing, beginning to freeze my hair and turn it white. I walked faster again. WrappedTreesBW7 It was a few more minutes, and I neared the mouth of the pass where I had parked my car that morning, leaving the note of my location, should I have come to grief at any point. I scanned the way: at a low wall bounding the car park, six trees stood, kneeling as if in prayer. In desperate, broken prayer. It was the wind, though I did not feel it, that turned them to me. It was the wind that raised their jute-covered bodies from kneeling, and lifted up, with a low sigh, their unseen, sightless heads.


Helen McClory is a writer from Scotland. Her first collection, On The Edges Of Vision, will be published by Queen’s Ferry Press in August 2015. There is a moor and a cold sea in her heart.

The Plantation Loop is a collaboration by Helen McClory and myself, Karen McRae. These wrapped tree images make me think of her uncanny stories so I sent her some photographs and asked if she’d be willing to collaborate by writing a flash fiction piece to accompany them. I’m delighted she agreed! You can find more succulent writing by Helen on her blog Schietree. If the wrapped trees interest you, you can find more here.

images © Karen McRae, 2014
writing © Helen McClory, 2014


(Previously) Unreleased


The-Wrapped-Trees2These are not recently photographed wrapped trees but they are different from the ones I have posted before. It seemed an appropriate day to let these swathed creatures out for some fresh air.

[More wrapped trees can be found here.]

© Karen McRae, 2013

We are all longing

…to shed our winter coats.WinterWraps5





WinterWraps3Wrapped trees found along a highway. Sometimes you will see the newly planted trees wrapped like this to protect them from the harsh weight of winter. I really don’t know how effective it is.

I documented some smaller and very different looking ones last year. You can see that series here. After the drought that occurred here last summer many of the trees along the highway look as though they are struggling.

© Karen McRae, 2013

Ready for Release

I had a chance to visit with the wrapped trees today. I thought they might be released from their winter trappings, but no. Surely, it must be well past time. The little trees are trying to fight their way out with the aid of the prevailing winds. They are ready to feel the sun and the rain on their restrained boughs. There are bits of green popping out.

I brought a little sun-shower with me but it’s not enough. The earth is cracked and dry.

Some of them are looking rather defeated. Who will come and start the unraveling?

*All these trees are as I have found them, along the highway and wrapped for the harsh winter. I have been documenting them through the seasons and you can find the whole series here.
All images © Karen McRae

Character Development

Caveat lector: More Wrapped Trees

I‘ve come to think of them affectionately as the “Sad Sacks”. It appears there are other emotions at play but I think overall they are finding the winter long. It’s definitely been character building.

It seems these characters are now starting to regard me with a bit suspicion, I wonder what they are thinking…

A young Treeannosaurus Rex perhaps?

Previous wrapped trees can be found here and here.

All images © Karen McRae

Winter Wrapped Trees

For some reason, this image just breaks my heart. The harshness of Winter.

I have been here in the past. It was before the snow fell, before the cold really settled in. If you missed the first visit you can find it here. I’m fascinated by the figurative nature of these wrapped trees and how they can be interpreted in different ways. The way they relate to each other. The changes taking place through the seasons. The conversations.

All images © Karen McRae

It’s A Wrap

Well Christmas is all wrapped up for this year. And it snowed! It snowed most of the day on the 25th and it was beautiful.  Today we managed to even get out for a short ski and more snow is on the way later this week.
It actually feels like Winter now.
A few days before the snow fell I came across these wrapped trees along the highway.  I found them a little haunting in their figure-like resemblance. The way they are mysteriously cloaked and how they gently bend. The way they are lined up in rows like… like what?… an audience for the passing cars?
They are whispering amongst themselves.
All images © Karen McRae