Tuesday 20 January 2015

Update from the Wildwood team

It's been a few months since we've had an update on what our volunteers have been up to at Wildwood. They've certainly not had their feet up by the fire all winter and as ever have been working very hard every Tuesday (or when the weather permits).

We've been focusing on what we call enrichment planting. In essence this means that we are bulking up the areas that have been planted in the past with some more trees. This is to help get a better survival rate all round as well as, in some cases, providing a bit more species diversity within different compartments. 

After we welcomed in the trees we got off to an absolutely storming start up in compartment 3b. It's a slog to get to and a tricky one to plant but the volunteers (as seasoned professionals of course) simply whizzed through it - all 1,100 trees. Along with the canes we prepared earlier, we are just using some small vole guards to protect the trees. These are only 20cms in height and give the opportunity for the tree to take on a much more natural growth pattern. 

We then attempted the even trickier (some might argue) 3c. This is located at the very back of the valley - meaning a very long hike in before a tree can even get planted! We managed to get half of the trees in (around 600) but in the end were defeated by the weather. It's quite high up and prone to snow when it comes so now we play the waiting game until it thaws a bit and we can return.

3c looks perfectly balmy!
On days like this planting is a dream job!
And you get to enjoy these sorts of sunsets
But then the snow comes
And when you are looking for canes it becomes a bit of a 'needle in a very cold haystack' hunt
Not to mention of course how slippery it is! These are some very steep slopes we work on
As we bide our time we have begun planting in 4d. This is the compartment where most of the trees are heading for (2,200). It's much lower down and less prone to the snow than 3c. We made a good start on this last week and aim to keep up the high rate of planting rhythm we got in to.

Tackling 4d (with a snowy 3c in the background)
It's tough, rocky planting in 4d but certainly much easier to get to
We're helped by dog volunteers Olive and Sally whose areas of expertise include spontaneous cane re-siting and cane chewing
Just before christmas we were (nearly) called off but instead decided to do some low down planting. We chose to enrich an area of bracken which had been planted during the last few years. Some of the smaller trees had been struggling but bracken is an indicator of good soil. We chose to plant this area with oaks and had a really successful day where we put in just under 500. In this area we used taller tubes to give the trees better protection and encourage them to grow taller and quicker. Eventually they will outgrow and shade out the bracken underneath. As it's only a small area, we'll be able to revisit it in the spring/summer and bruise the bracken around the trees to help them.

One of our steering group members Fi Martynoga also organised a very successful volunteer day on 1st January. This was to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the official purchase of Carrifran. Despite a truly dreich Scottish day, 28 volunteers turned up to undertake some tree tube removal and honeysuckle planting. 

A keen and dedicated bunch!
On a day when the river looked like this! Quite a flow and something else we have to consider when deciding to plant in 3c as we have to cross this!
So what's to come for the rest of the winter? More of the same really. We have lots more trees to plant (including a very generous donation of 1,200 aspen from the Woodland Trust - another story on that to follow later) and on the side we're attempting to tackle a rather large number of tree tubes which we've been removing over the years. We've had mixed success with the winter this year with some challenging weather conditions leading to missed days, but as ever the volunteers are dedicated and we'll keep on planting!

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