Friday 27 June 2014

Out with the old....

During the past few weeks some of our volunteers have been helping with the dismantling of some old water gates. These were part of a small deer exclosure that was in the Holly Gill/Broomy Gutter area of the site (follow this link for a map of the site - the area is roughly in the middle)

Most of the old fenceline was removed but the watergates were left as a relict of what stood. It was decided that it was time for them to dismantled - a perfect summer job for volunteers.

We had 3 to tackle as well as a number of old bits and bobs of fence material and posts that we found. We began the long task of removing as much metal work from the wood as possible - cue hours of staple, nail and wire removal. But it was worthwhile as it meant we removed 3 full bags and a number of small rolls of wire.

We saved any lengths of wood that would be re-usable and we had a small fire to get rid of the rest. As a rule we do not allow any fires at Wildwood - there is not only the concern of them causing a wildfire (and believe it or not it's been a scorcher of late!) but it's also the damage that they can do to the flora and soil beneath. 

Therefore for our fire site we chose an area of loose stone next to the river. We used a metal sheet to burn on and used rocks to raise this off the ground. We kept the fire small and within the confines of the sheet and then, once cooled, we were able to scrape off any ash and bits of metal we couldn't remove and take these away. Overall a great success with only a few areas of minor scorching.

We used a chainsaw on the larger sections of the water gates and chopped these up and took them away on the quad bike. Most of these have been treated with tar and chemicals so not really the kind of thing to be left behind. 

We have a couple of final hours tidying up to do but overall a great job done with a great outcome - all helps to make the place feel that little bit wilder.

Site Officer

Thursday 26 June 2014

Is that bracken in the orchard!?

Not any more, as armed with jungle knives we cleared around 2500 square meters on our Thursday volunteer day.

Flying bracken! 

Apple trees growing well.

The bracken will will soon be back in the orchard. It's success lies in its underground rhizome system which acts as an energy store and allows it to spread underground. It is thought a single rhizome may reach 60 metres in length!  Cutting weakens it over time.

Bracken hasn't always been considered a problem, once greatly valued  it was cut and used in a range of ways including bedding for animals, a mulch to suppress weeds, a fertilizer rich in nitrogen and potash  and even a biofuel.

This year we are trying some different methods of bracken control including crushing with a tractor on accessible slopes and a trial area of cutting and composting.

Peter at the new compost area.

Some interesting articles include:

Bracken as a peat alternative

Pigs to control bracken

Ali Murfitt
Community and Education Officer

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Notes from a ramble through Wildwood

This post comes from one of our volunteers and steering group members. A great little snippet of some bits and bobs observed on a walk through the site. 

Took a short walk up the left hand bank of the Carrifran burn yesterday afternoon and was delighted to see a cinnabar moth and then two more on the track back.  Also noticed a few of the early purple orchids along that bank were still in flower although most had gone to seed. 

View down into Carrifran from Rispie Lairs
Wide range of other wild flowers including beautiful clumps of Cranesbill by the stream.

Masses of Green Veined White butterflies, some of them clustering on the track.  

Unlucky butterflies, lucky sundew!
Lovely clump of butterwort
And lastly the first regenerating alder I've seen in the valley, it was in the wood just up from the cattle grid on the left hand side of the rough path.

Volunteer and Steering Group member

Thursday 19 June 2014

Montane Scrub Action Group visit

This week we were very lucky to have the Montane Scrub Action Group visit us at Borders Forest Trust.

What is Montane Scrub? Well Scottish Natural Heritage give the best description.....

Montane Scrub, that fascinating mix of gnarled and twisted 'wee trees' and other plants and animals associated with them, is the 'Cinderella' habitat of Scotland. Without positive measures for reinstatement, the future for this valuable habitat looks bleak. Forming a natural zone between the treeline and the high montane heath, montane scrub adds diversity to the scenery, helps to prevent erosion, and provides a haven for nesting birds and a valuable food source for migrants.

And the Montane Scrub Action Group? They are a group of experts from across Scotland who promote the importance of montane scrub and discuss and advise on best practice. The group attending on the day included representatives from Scottish Natural Heritage, Forest Enterprise, National Trust for Scotland, Cairngorms National Park Authority, Trees for Life and ourselves represented by Philip Ashmole. Overall a group of very important folks who were delighted to have visit!

We took them out to Talla and Gameshope, our recent purchase, for a walk around and to gather their advice on future planting possibilities of montane species. On our walk around we were able to identify some species that already exist on site including those photographed below:

Alpine Clubmoss
A tiny Rowan found growing above 700m
There were some really interesting discussions within the group who were excited about the scope for restoration at Talla and Gameshope. It was a brilliant day out with a lot of food for thought!

View over Gameshope Loch
If anyone would like to know more about montane scrub have a look at the booklet produced by SNH

Site Officer
Photos from Philip Ashmole

Wednesday 11 June 2014

The annual Carrifran bracken bash

Yesterday our regular Carrifran volunteer group met and we had a number of tasks that needed doing.

The first..... bracken bashing (for those of you who have read our earlier article on bracken at Corehead, see the link to the SNH document for more info).

There were a number of Oaks and Hawthorn that were planted on a slope and were becoming swamped with bracken. Our volunteers Stan, Malcolm, John and Les went out armed with slashers and canes to do a mixture of bruising and cutting around the little trees to release them. They did an amazing job and we plan to revisit the area at the end of July to hit the bracken back again.

We also did a bit of maintenance on our small visitor circular path which leads from the car park, up to the stell viewpoint and back. Armed with a strimmer, we managed to cut about 3/4s of the path. One of our volunteers Robin did a little cutting back on some trees which were making parts of the path difficult to pass but where possible we moved the path around any trees to avoid. 

And the highlight of the day? Well the sound of the cuckoo in the valley as we ate our lunch. Previously not a regular visitor to the area but certainly a much welcomed one.

Site Officer

Exclosure? Check...

A few years back we had lots of trees planted in the Whitehope area (opposite end of the site to the BeefTub and just below Hartfell).

Every month at Corehead we try to get out and do a full check of our deer exclosure. The idea is to walk the fenceline and have a look for any bits that might need fixing and any gaps that might allow a deer to sneak through and have a chomp on some of our trees.

The walk itself takes about 3hrs and is a bit of a slog up and down some steep valleys. But it's a beautiful stretch with some great views. During the walk we also do a scan within the exclosure for any deer and report this to our deer stalker.

We are looking to recruit any volunteers who would like to help us with this on a monthly basis. The main requirement is a good level of hill fitness. If you would be interested then please email

Site Officer

High Camp June 2014

Below find a great summary of our the first of our High Camps 2014 - Peat restoration at Little Firthhope, Carrifran by our High Camps leader Hugh Chalmers

If you are tempted to join us on the second on 19th/20th Junly (don't be put off by the pictures in the rain...) contact

Heading up to Firthhope

Green veined butterflies on sundew 

At the waterfall viewpoint we saw the damage done by roebuck to some of our little trees

It rained hard from 1pm to 6pm. Getting coir rolls into place

Getting posts through the coir mats was quite difficult

Coir rolls in place at the top of the eroding peat

We laid approximately 500m of jute mesh

In the deep peat gully, Dave Arnotts wood dams are tested

The jute mesh laid down in August 2013 shows good signs of encouraging vegetation.

Deep peat headcut

Working through the downpour

On Sunday we found a nice patch of globeflower just downstream of the peat restoration site

We also picked 87 catkins from 4 bushes and sent them to Alba trees to be grown on.

We noticed that most of the juniper in the previously enclosed area at Little Firthhope has died.

But we did find that outside the enclosure the junpier is thriving

We rounded off the Sunday by removing around 300 mesh guards from junipers in Firthhope

Bracken bashed!

As a part of our ongoing site management at Corehead, we have been tackling the bracken on the open slopes. 

Bracken is a native plant species but it can become quite dominant. It can cover large areas which can impact on the land by reducing grazing areas, out competing with other native flora and swamping trees. See the link at the end of this article for more information from Scottish Natural Heritage.

Last year our contract farmer Jim went up onto the slopes in the Beef Tub and around the Skirtle and crushed the bracken. There are lots of ways to tackle bracken - crushing, cutting and spraying with herbicide to name but a few. Each have their benefits in different situations but we thought it would be best to crush the bracken on the slopes and assess how effective it was this year.

And the results? Very impressive really. You can see yourself in the picture below. The area on the left hand side is bracken that was untouched - the brown area is all the litter from last years dead bracken which forms a dense matt under which nothing can grow! The area on the right hand side is the crushed area. the bracken density has reduced dramatically.

We hope to continue with more crushing in these areas this year and we are doing different types of bracken management in other parts of our site. More to follow!

Site Officer

Monday 2 June 2014

Peat restoration at Little Firthhope

We've recently been doing a fair bit of work looking at restoring areas of eroded peat across some of our sites. Quite a lot of the damage over the years has been done by grazing and water erosion and as we no longer have grazing animals at Carrifran Wildwood we can take some action to try and prevent any further erosion.

Peat forms naturally over a long time at a rate of 1-2mm per year. It is referred to as a 'carbon sink' which essentially means it holds a lot of carbon. Once the peat has become waterlogged it releases the carbon back into the atmosphere. By taking action, we can try to slow down and stop this continuing erosion and waterlogging.

Through Peatland Action we were given some money for works up at Little Firthhope. We've bought a number of coir rolls (made from coconut fibres) and lengths of jute. The plan is to head up to Little Firthhope this weekend to install these in some of the most eroded areas and camp out for the night. But first of all we had to get the materials up there - cue local contractor Derek Murray and his ex Swedish tracked super vehicle.

It was a bit of a white knuckle ride but we made it up the slopes through Talla and onto Little Firthhope. 

The restoration camping events, Save the Bog Bilberry High Camps, are running  7th-8th June and 12th-13th July. We'll be putting up pictures on the blog to show you how we got on and if anyone would like to join us please email

Site Officer