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