The Border Forest Trust's Carrifran Wildwood and Corehead Farm are neighbouring sites to Grey Mare's Tail Reserve, the National Trust for Scotland property. I am the Volunteer Ranger at Grey Mare's Tail and at the start of June, I hopped the boundary fence to work alongside Lynn Cassells, BFT Site Officer, for 3 days.
At Carrifran Wildwood, the task of the day was to gather and secure some of the old tree guards that were taken off at the High Camp in April at Firth hope. It was also a good opportunity to see the Peatland Action project at Little Firthhope.
Upon our arrival in the car park, we were welcomed by the unmistakeable call of a cuckoo that has made Carrifran Wildwood its home for the summer.
After ambitiously opting for the 'short but steep' climb up Dun Knowe to Carrifran Gans, we climbed through a mix of trees such as oak, hawthorn and juniper that were part of the earlier planting. The map of Carrifran Wildwood (http://www.carrifran.org.uk/about/our-mission-statement/) clearly shows the trees planted in certain areas and the habitat types they will form. The climb rewarded us with stunning and tranquil view over Carrifran and the Moffat Valley.
The on-going peatland restoration trial showed me it's not just about woodland areas with BFT! Exposed peat has been covered in a jute netting to prevent further erosion and encourage vegetation to grow and form a natural protective cover over the peat. Coir logs act as dams to limit and control water drainage.
It is one thing to be aware of the facts and figures of Carrifran and quite another to see directly, the results and the potential for the dynamic habitat and peaceful landscape that has been created here.
The following days were based at Corehead Farm. The Corehead orchard's floor is dominated by a mat of tussocky grass. Wild flowers struggle to establish in an environment like this. Lynn and I cut out and swapped sections of turf between the orchard's dense grass and an adjacent field with yellow rattle in order to create a more wildflower-friendly site.
Yellow rattle is parastic upon grasses and an effective natural control to reduce grass dominance. Once we started digging in the orchard, it was plain to see why flowers struggled to flourish; the handle of our spade broke off when we fought to dig out turf from the dense network of grass roots!
On the last day, Lynn, myself and Corehead volunteers Charlie, John and Heather cut bracken growing around young planted trees. We used Jungle Knives - the name makes them sound more dangerous than they are - to cut bracken stems within a 1m radio of the tree guards. I was impressed that with a good bit of team work, sunshine and tea breaks, we covered a substantial area.
Overall, a short but very sweet insight into BFT's projects and site management! I look forward to returning to these sites to observe their development over the years and perhaps, hear more cuckoos making Carrifran their summer retreat!
NTS and BFT volunteer