Monday 15 December 2014

A wintery wander

We have had a LOT of snow over the last week. Here's a selection of pictures of the site taken this morning on one of our monthly fence checks.

Approaching the Whitehope plantation. The snow was just over 1/2 foot deep along here
Nothing like a bit of snow to disguise quad tracks!
Looking up towards Whitehope Knowe
The fenceline running across the top of Lochan Burn - the top of the 6ft deer fence was now just over 2ft above the snow drift
The heathery (honestly...) slope of Lochan Burn
Looking into the Lochan Burn plantation with the start of Hartfell up to the right
Certainly a wild day to be up and about in Corehead but very glad to see the deer fence is holding up well to the start of the winter.

Site Officer

Thursday 11 December 2014

Winter lights

Well done to all those who came out on a cold frosty morning to make lanterns out of willow! 

Armed with plenty of hot chocolate, biscuits and a wee fire to warm our toes we set to work.

The obligatory marshmallow toasting!

Willow is a wonderful tree, normally to be found with its roots near water, where many other trees can't grow. It does a great job holding river banks together, reducing flood risk and providing a habitat for a wide range of creatures.

It is also incredibly bendy...and a fantastic resource to make things with.

So we measured out the willow, bent it into shape and after a fair bit of weaving and masking tape we had the willow frames for our lanterns.*

At this point it was getting a bit damp so most of us took tissue paper home to finish later on.

Here is a finished one!

Looking forward to seeing it lit up at night!

The 6th December also happened to be national tree dressing day. We decided to take this literally and rather than ribbons, our wonderful old ash tree got boots, a warm scarf, gloves and a tutu!
Old tree hugs

This was the last event in 2014 but we're putting together an exciting programme of walks, workshops and activities for next year. If there are any events you'd like to see happen at Corehead Farm please email

Community and Education Officer

 * If you'd like to make a lantern yourself the instructions we followed were from the Eden Project and can be found here

Friday 5 December 2014

Corehead waterworks

I think it's fair to say that normally a shortage of water is not something we have to worry too much about in the Scottish Borders......

But, we have had such issues this year at Corehead in our pond. It's not due to that lovely, balmy summer we had (for those of you reading this outside of Scotland, it is true.... we had an amazing summer!), but more due to the leftovers of previous land use.

Much of the inbye area at Corehead was drained, most likely to improve it for grazing. When we put the pond in a few years ago, we uncovered some of the old clay drains but over the years we've realised that there were more than we thought. So as the area has filled with water, it has slowly been draining away through this old network. 

A few months ago our Site Manager Tim came over to have a bit more of an investigation. Dressed in waders, he managed to have a good old dig around in the mud and found some of the old clay pipes. 

Marking out some of the drains we found but we suspected there may be some more...
It can be beneficial for ponds to go through wet and dry periods but we decided to address the problems we were having as this was due to artificial drainage rather than natural processes. We decided to dig a trench around the edge of the pond with the view to breaking any of the drains and were helped out by local contractor Dominic Murray.

When we found drains we blocked these up and then filled the trench back in. As the area has been disturbed it looks quite drastic, but overtime the vegetation will come back and cover any of the scars.

Digging the trench

Can you spot the broken drain?
In total we found and severed 4 (possibly 5!) drains which will hopefully solve the problem of our disappearing pond!

Whilst we had the digger on site, we decided to create a few more scrapes in our wetland area. A scrape is a shallow depression with a gradual edge that will fill with water and provide important habitat for all sorts of wildlife including all sorts of invertebrates which in turn are a great food source for breeding wader birds. We had some scrapes put in a few years ago and they are brimming with life.

We will continue to monitor our wetland areas and plan to increase our surveying here next year. If anyone would be interested in helping us then do get in touch

P.S. It's worth mentioning as well that whilst this was going on we had our volunteers out at Corehead again. This time we were working in the orchard and got a HUGE amount of work done. We finished off the repairs on all the mulch mats as well as the staking of the trees (see this old blog post for the works we started earlier in the year) . A brilliant effort by a great team.

Site Officer

Wednesday 26 November 2014

The John Muir 44!

Back in June this year, 44 primary 7 pupils from Moffat academy came out to Corehead Farm to complete their John Muir Discovery Awards.

Across three weeks they explored different areas of Corehead, learning about the wild plants, trees, animals, insects and birds that live there, discovering more about John Muir and we went.

They completed team challenges, built shelters, learnt to light fire safely with fire strikers,  dipped nets in ponds and rivers, looked for bugs in meadows, built bird boxes and worked in the orchards for their conservation challenge.

Back at School everyone helped to write up and share their experiences and last night they received their John Muir awards, presented by John  Thomas a trustee of both the John Muir Trust and the Borders Forest Trust!

It was a great night, and well done to the 44!  We hope to repeat this next year with another year group at Moffat Academy. Many thanks to Lynda Halley and all the staff at Moffat Academy for making it happen.

Next year we're  starting up Junior rangers which will run on the 2nd Saturday of the month throughout 2015.
It is for 11 to 18 year old's and starts on January 10th 2015, please get in touch at to sign up or find out more.

Thursday 20 November 2014

Walking the Line at Corehead

Yesterday we kicked off our winter maintenance works in Tweedhope. We have a few jobs we’d like to get done in there over the next few months and we started with the rather ambitious job of fence removal.

Before Tweedhope was a small planted woodland, it was grazed with sheep. The planted area is now divided up internally by old fence lines which no longer serve a purpose. Yesterday we began the rather ambitious task of removing these.

What was needed? A healthy bunch of volunteers, some tools, a good bit of fitness and a good sense of humour (this was more for the laughs at tea break and lunch break than anything else).

There are some volunteers in there somewhere.....

We started where the first fence line crosses the Annandale Way and worked up the slope towards Cocklaw Knowe. 

We divided the fence into sections and cut the barbed wire and sheep netting so as to take the tension out of the wire and stop it from pinging! 

Cutting the wire
We then removed the staples and rolled up the wire and brought it down to the track side where we could remove it by quad. 
Removing the wire
Volunteer Martin carrying down one of the many rolls - 3.5 quad trailer loads in total!
Afterwards we removed the posts and filled in the holes left. This was a good trick once pointed out to me by an old fencer. If you don’t fill them in, little voles can fall in to them and not get out. Not a good situation for the vole and not a good situation for the food chain for our growing raptor population!

The posts we removed

At the end of the day we achieved a LOT! Metres and metres of fence line removed which will really help to open up the landscape of this young woodland.

The thing is….. we’ve got plenty more to do. Interested in volunteering? Email:


Site Officer

Thursday 13 November 2014

A trial for sisal

This week we've been busy again up at Little Firthhope. We are continuing with our peat restoration works following a second grant from Scottish Natural Heritage, this time for the use of sisal mesh, rather than the jute mesh that we have been laying to date (see earlier posts First High camp and Second High Camp).

Sisal is a plant that is native to warmer climates than Scotland. Our mesh has come from East Africa. The leaves of the plant are picked, dried and made into a tight woven mesh by local community groups. This can then be used for any number of things. Our ex project officer Hugh met with John Ferguson of the East African Sisal company and the idea of using it at Little Firthhope developed from there.

The delivery to Little Firthhope was made by the usual Hagglund trip. The sisal is much heavier and bulkier than the jute so it took quite a bit of effort to move it on and off the machine. However once delivered we were then able to lay it out on site.

Loading up Hagglund at Talla Moss
The dump of materials is made to a misty, wet Little Firthhope
Assembly of workers at Sisal dump
We took the same approach of using it to target edge areas to prevent the spread of the eroded area. We also covered some larger areas. Whilst this will not stop further erosion, it will help to slow the flow of surface water across the bare peat, hopefully creating a more stable environment for plant matter to recolonise, as the the jute mesh has allowed.

Laying the sisal matting
The older jute mesh and coir rolls with the new sisal behind
Coir roll with establishing Sphagnum and Eriophorum (cotton grass)
Developing Sphagnum bog in netting
Empetrum (crow berry) stabilising peat under netting
Eriophorum growing through netting
We also purchased 150 hessian sacks. We started to fill these with peat and used them to provide stability to existing dams, as well as blocking smaller new gullies that were starting to appear due to water erosion.
Filling bags with peat
Dammed pool with peat bags and bag fillers
Despite a somewhat 'wet' day it was a thoroughly enjoyable one. It is great to see the current jute and coir rolls doing their job and we will monitor the new sisal mesh alongside to see how effective it is.

Site Officer
(all pictures are courtesy of Philip Ashmole)

Monday 3 November 2014

Build a Bonfire

It was a beautiful calm and sunny November afternoon last Sunday, perfect for our 'build a bonfire' event where with help from local people who came out to volunteer we started to clear the beech brash, burning the smaller branches and saving some of the larger ones for wood for future community events.

We dug turfs to make the fire site which we will replace after the event.

The beginnings!

The fallen beech tree still looks magnificant and we'll be leaving the stump, trunk and a variety of sized branches as a wildlife habitat. Dead wood is a really important habitat for insects and fungi. There are already lots of fungi fruiting on parts of it such as the Hairy Curtain Crust  and Bachelors Buttons/Fairy Trampolines.

Beryl with Stereum hirsutum (The hairy curtain crust fungi)

We had lots of tea and soup heated on a rocket stove.

There were even some spooky post halloween moments

Where is Lynns head!?

 Its amazing how much you can achieve with a group of people and soon the fire was roaring and we had sorted piles of wood for future use including straight ones for shelter building. 

As the night drew in and the moon rose above the trees we celebrated with sparklers around the fire very kindly donated by The Green Frog in Moffat

Thanks so much for everyone who turned up, helped out and joined in the fun.

Community and Education Officer 


Tuesday 28 October 2014

Winter works in the orchard begin!

Last week we kicked off some winter works in our orchard at Corehead. We have a lot of basic maintenance tasks to do over the winter so under the theme of Apple Day we began to tackle them.

The first job was to finish off staking all the trees. By knocking a small stake in beside the tree and securing it with a rubber tie, we are helping to give the tree a bit of support in windy conditions. As the tree gets a bit older, bigger and stronger we can remove these. A second job to start was giving the current mulch mats a bit of TLC. There are a lot of dominant, thick grasses in the orchard which, under the surface, compete with the trees for water and nutrients. 
The mulch mats help to suppress these grasses but they need regular maintenance. Initially most of them were secured with stones. However as we plan to undertake a proper grass management regime in the orchard (which over time will help to reduce the density) and stones and cutting blades don't match (!!), we need to remove theses, hand weed underneath and around the mulch mats and secure them again with pegs.

......and after!
With volunteer help we made a start on this yesterday but we have plenty to do. 

Volunteer recruitment at the recent Moffat volunteering event
If anyone would be interested in helping us out in the orchard or any other volunteer events we have planned at Corehead then please do get in touch

Site Officer

Woodland Ghosts and Fairy Folk

Its that time of year again, when the leaves fall, the wind picks up, pumpkins appear at windows and the woodland sprites come out to play.

To celebrate the changing of the seasons we gathered in the barn at Corehead for a morning of nature based story telling and mask making. The weather forecast was Autumnal (gales and rain!) so we came prepared with blankets, hot chocolate and some nice new benches to sit on (thanks keith and Lynn!)

First we set out to exploring Corehead to gather natural materials then we got to work.

and here's what we created

Many thanks to Morag for her wonderful story and to Fi for sharing a poem.

That was the last of the October adventure clubs, looking forward to the winter and beyond

Community and Education Officer