Wednesday 27 August 2014

Working together for Woodsia

Working in the natural environment, it's part of the job that we often have to work with species that are often in decline. This can be for any number of reasons: change in land use, change in habitat, hunting, increase in natural predators or just simply being out competed - it's a tough world out there!

A number of years ago, Carrifran was chosen as a re-introduction site for a plant called Oblong Woodsia (Woodsia ilvensis). This is a tiny little fern like plant, not to be confused with similar species such as Alpine Woodsia (Woodsia alpina), Brittle bladder fern (Cystopteris fragilis) or even Parsley fern (Cryptogramma crispa). Historically, it is thought that the plant was at Carrifran but had become absent over the years. It has never been of great abundance and it is because of this that it caught the eye of Victorian collectors who picked nearly every plant they could find. Others believe that this, combined with a changing climate has led to its near extinction.

Around 60 were planted at Carrifran as well as 2 other sites at our neighbour Grey Mares Tail (National Trust for Scotland). The bi-annual survey has been led by the NTS Ranger there Richard Clarkson so we decided to team up for day, along with volunteer David, to go hunting.

As Oblong Woodsia doesn't compete well with other vegetation, it was mostly planted on scree or at the base of rocks. During the last survey in 2012, only 12 of the original 60 plants were found. We were working from old photographic records and recorded the location of the plants we found, the length of the longest frond and whether or not sporangia (spores which basically mean the plant will reproduce) were present.

Sadly to say we only found 4 of the original 60 during our survey. We think they have simply been out competed by encroaching vegetation.  The next one is planned in now for 2016 so it will be interesting to see how many we can find then. 

Lynn and Richard
BFT Site Officer and NTS Ranger/Property Manager/Naturalist

Thursday 21 August 2014

Corehead Orchard

A few years back we had an orchard planted at Corehead. Around 180 trees were planted in blocks of 5 and included a mix of apples and plums. Varieties that were planted were chosen based on their suitability for the area, hardiness to survive the Corehead climate (!) and availability.

The orchard has been a great addition to Corehead and really fits in with the overall aim to manage the site as a low intensity farm alongside habitat restoration techniques.

We've been doing a bit of work in the orchard this summer to help it along. Around the perimeter of the site a hedgerow was planted. It's been doing so well that the trees have been literally bursting out of the top of the tree guards but to the point where they have started to look like lollipops. We've been working throughout the summer cutting these guards in half and putting them back on the trees to allow them to bush out a bit more. Eventually we will be able to take the guards off all together but until then they need to stay on to help protect against munching voles.

We've also been removing all the fruit from the trees. There's not been much this year but by doing this we are helping to direct the trees energy into growing to get stronger.

One of the last big jobs of the year is to cut the grass in the orchard. Once cut, it should be raked off. This helps to reduce the overall nutrient level which provides a better environment for wildflowers to flourish. The traditional way of doing this would have been with a scythe. So on Saturday 13th September we have John Grundy, a scything expert, coming to show us how to do it. 

We may not get the whole orchard done in one day (it's quite big) but certainly may be a way to manage in the future. If you'd be interested in coming to our scything day then drop us an email to

Site Officer

Thursday 14 August 2014

Trees at Talla Bank

Just next to our Talla & Gameshope estate Tim, BFT’s Site Manager has been working on marking out a new 94 hectare site. We are managing the site at Talla Bank on behalf of a private landowner in partnership with the Woodland Trust to create a lovely new native woodland just above the Talla reservoir. Tim explains what is happening at the site at the moment.

Once all the behind the scenes paperwork has been approved we source all the trees, order tree protection, find planting and fencing contractors. We try and use local nurseries and contractors to do the work and supply the trees to help the local economy. Once everything is in place we start to mark out the site with stakes and coloured flags. This makes is easy for everybody to see where to plant the trees (and just as importantly, where not to plant the trees). In this photo the treeline will be below the heather in the background. It is marked with pink flags but its not possible to see these as theyre a long way away!.

Internal open space is marked with yellow flags. You will notice the sheep are still on the site. Ideally the sheep wouldn’t be on site whilst we are marking out and placing the canes, but they don’t appear to be doing any significant damage at the moment. The sheep will be taken off before the trees are brought onto site in the coming planting season. The sheep do, however, help to keep the grass short which does make it easier going when walking across the site.

This is one of the tree planters, Andy, who is placing canes out at the top of the site. This is a job that involves a lot of walking and a good understanding of the ground and the woodland type that can be supported. Andy is part of Treesurv’s team who we have worked with at Corehead and Wildwood and understand native woodland creation.

The view from the top of the planting line back down towards Talla. The small blob in the middle is Treesurv’s Argocat and the canes keeping under a waterproof sheet.

On the way back down the hill I came across this little fellow. A dung beetle.

And here is his friend doing what dung beetles do best – Happy as a dung beetle in dung!

In the afternoon I marked out the open space either side of the power lines. We don’t plant trees right up to the power lines because when the trees grow they can interfere with the wires so we mark it out the open space which makes it clear for the planters where to plant and where to leave. Open space is part of native woodlands; glades and rides are good for insects and wild flowers amongst other things. If you look carefully you can see the Argocat heading up the hill.

 Whilst I was marketing out the power lines I came across this:

So I had a go seeing if I could remove ‘Excalibur’.

Nope, I obviously haven’t been descended from King Arthur!!!! Seriously, if anybody does know why this is here please let us know. And here is the last couple of photos from a previous visit to Talla Bank – two woodpecker holes in a Scottish Power electricity pole. There is a sign saying it was inspected in 2013. I don’t think they looked too hard….

Site Manager