The recent feedback from the drop-in session about the forestry plans for the hills around Largs shows a great diversity about what local people regard as desirable or "natural". This is not surprising.

We all form our view of what is normal during our childhood and have an inbuilt resistance to changes from this. I don't know when the natural woodland around Largs was felled (perhaps one of your readers can enlighten me about this) but it must be at least several centuries ago.

In many parts of Britain deforestation started in the bronze age, with the desire for timber, fuel and then open land for farming. Centuries of grazing by cattle, sheep and deer then prevented any regrowth of the trees.

So anyone now who grew up in this area will see the bare hills as natural, and even beautiful. One reason for our liking for open grasslands has even been suggested to go back to the origins of Homo sapiens. Modern humans are thought to have evolved on the open savanna of East Africa and the first 50,000 generations will have lived as hunter/gatherers in this open landscape. Compared with this it is a relatively short time since a few people moved north to the forested lands of Europe. So perhaps we have some sort of "race-memory" liking for open grassland.

However, we do know that if it hadn't been for human interference the hillsides around the town would have been clothed in deciduous forest, and would have been much richer in wildlife than they are now.

When Frank Fraser Darling studied the landscapes of the Highlands and Islands in the middle of the 20th century he was much saddened by what he found.

His reports shocked many people when he variously described the areas as "wet desert" or "a devastated landscape".

We have to realise that the bare hills that we grew up with, and many of us love, are actually severely damaged and impoverished. They should be so much better than the current bare acid grassland that supports so few birds, insects and other animals.

Full re-wilding is probably not possible in such a densely populated island as Great Britain, but we can go a long way towards restoring the ecosystems that should surround us.

Whether or not the blocks of alien Sitka Spruce get the go-ahead, perhaps we should be aspiring to restore some of the native deciduous woodland that our distant ancestors destroyed.

It will change the landscapes around Largs (though there would be no need to plant trees on the hill-tops). It will seem strange to many people at first.

But the end result will be so much better that what exists today. The Borders Forest Trust's magnificent Carrifran Wildwood project near Moffat shows what can be done. [Look it up on the internet to see what they have achieved in just 17 years.]

If I can be allowed one last thought - the new Largs school complex is being built adjacent to one of the best areas for any new native woodland. What a wonderful opportunity it would be for the biology students in the coming decades to be able to monitor and record the developing woodland ecosystem and the gradual return of the species that our ancestors drove out of the area.

Roger Hissett.