Friday 23 January 2015

Scotlands Rural College visit Corehead

It was great to have students from the SRUC Countryside Management course visit Corehead Farm on what turned out to be a snowy yet sunny January day.

The main theme of the day was heritage and interpretation and as we walked from the barn, through the wild bird cover crop, up past the young orchard and into Tweedhope valley we discussed a variety of themes. Topics ranged from what makes an informative interpretation panel, to the decisions behind the tree planting in Tweedhope and the future development of a low level circular walk into the Beef Tub. 

Most interesting to me perhaps were our conversations about people's perceptions of what the landscape 'should' look like and how that in turn, along with a variety of other factors, shapes our management decisions. At Corehead Farm our aim is to balance habitat restoration with continuation of hill farming and community activities, so whilst we keep the iconic Beef Tub grazed, in the eastern part of the farm we are restoring the Ettrick forest which once cloaked the land. As we peered into the wooded gorge at remnants of old woodland this is a little easier to imagine! 

We also discussed 'shifting baseline syndrome' which describes peoples acceptance of the landscape and nature they grow up in as the norm. A phenomenon that can lead to continued loss of biodiversity over generations, as people literally forget that the meadows were once full of flowers and the rivers full of fish.

So much food for thought!

Thanks very much to lecturer Ian Lewis and students for such lively discussions. 

Community and Education Officer 




The hardy bunch

The point of this post is mainly to celebrate the effort of some superb volunteers who came out to help us at Corehead yesterday.

We were continuing to remove an old stretch of fence line in Tweedhope (that we started just before christmas). The forecast was perfect but we did have a good few inches of snow underfoot.

We had a long walk in, and up, and started from where we had left off last time. 

The dots at the top of the picture are the volunteers! We had to bring all of the old posts and wire down to the bottom
And here are some of the volunteers
A view from the top. We were bring the materials down to the path which you can snaking along the bottom of the hill
It was hard work with everyone taking on different tasks: staple removal, rolling barbed wire, rolling wire netting, removing posts and carrying materials to the collection points. 

The view from our 'office' for the day. Not too bad really
And then we nearly reached the top....

....where we quite literally turned the corner. 

This was an amazing achievement to get to this point. It meant that we could work on much flatter ground and bring materials to a closer point. We didn't quite get to finish the whole fence line but we don't have that much more to do. We also found the remains of an old dam which had been built to hold back the natural flow of water. We began to remove this (to be finished on our next day) but the difference even a little work made to it was amazing. It was great to see the water flow through naturally down the channel. Reinstating natural features like this are all a key part of what we are trying to achieve in helping the landscape of Tweedhope to feel that little bit wilder.

A huge thank you to all who helped - I hope muscles weren't too achey by the end of the day.

Site Officer

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Update from the Wildwood team

It's been a few months since we've had an update on what our volunteers have been up to at Wildwood. They've certainly not had their feet up by the fire all winter and as ever have been working very hard every Tuesday (or when the weather permits).

We've been focusing on what we call enrichment planting. In essence this means that we are bulking up the areas that have been planted in the past with some more trees. This is to help get a better survival rate all round as well as, in some cases, providing a bit more species diversity within different compartments. 

After we welcomed in the trees we got off to an absolutely storming start up in compartment 3b. It's a slog to get to and a tricky one to plant but the volunteers (as seasoned professionals of course) simply whizzed through it - all 1,100 trees. Along with the canes we prepared earlier, we are just using some small vole guards to protect the trees. These are only 20cms in height and give the opportunity for the tree to take on a much more natural growth pattern. 

We then attempted the even trickier (some might argue) 3c. This is located at the very back of the valley - meaning a very long hike in before a tree can even get planted! We managed to get half of the trees in (around 600) but in the end were defeated by the weather. It's quite high up and prone to snow when it comes so now we play the waiting game until it thaws a bit and we can return.

3c looks perfectly balmy!
On days like this planting is a dream job!
And you get to enjoy these sorts of sunsets
But then the snow comes
And when you are looking for canes it becomes a bit of a 'needle in a very cold haystack' hunt
Not to mention of course how slippery it is! These are some very steep slopes we work on
As we bide our time we have begun planting in 4d. This is the compartment where most of the trees are heading for (2,200). It's much lower down and less prone to the snow than 3c. We made a good start on this last week and aim to keep up the high rate of planting rhythm we got in to.

Tackling 4d (with a snowy 3c in the background)
It's tough, rocky planting in 4d but certainly much easier to get to
We're helped by dog volunteers Olive and Sally whose areas of expertise include spontaneous cane re-siting and cane chewing
Just before christmas we were (nearly) called off but instead decided to do some low down planting. We chose to enrich an area of bracken which had been planted during the last few years. Some of the smaller trees had been struggling but bracken is an indicator of good soil. We chose to plant this area with oaks and had a really successful day where we put in just under 500. In this area we used taller tubes to give the trees better protection and encourage them to grow taller and quicker. Eventually they will outgrow and shade out the bracken underneath. As it's only a small area, we'll be able to revisit it in the spring/summer and bruise the bracken around the trees to help them.

One of our steering group members Fi Martynoga also organised a very successful volunteer day on 1st January. This was to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the official purchase of Carrifran. Despite a truly dreich Scottish day, 28 volunteers turned up to undertake some tree tube removal and honeysuckle planting. 

A keen and dedicated bunch!
On a day when the river looked like this! Quite a flow and something else we have to consider when deciding to plant in 3c as we have to cross this!
So what's to come for the rest of the winter? More of the same really. We have lots more trees to plant (including a very generous donation of 1,200 aspen from the Woodland Trust - another story on that to follow later) and on the side we're attempting to tackle a rather large number of tree tubes which we've been removing over the years. We've had mixed success with the winter this year with some challenging weather conditions leading to missed days, but as ever the volunteers are dedicated and we'll keep on planting!

Site Officer

Monday 19 January 2015

Junior Rangers begins

Junior Rangers is a new group supported by Community Service Volunteers, Action Earth and Scottish Natural Heritage 

Our first Junior Rangers session was on the 10th January. The weather forecast: snow and high winds!

We decided maybe planting trees up in the hills wasn't the best idea but not to be put off we hired the Annan Water Hall and started Junior Rangers in style!

After introductions and name games; the first challenge: to lower a stick to the floor (harder then it sounds!!)

Then we chatted about all the things we'd like to do in the year. With lots of requests from rope work to pond dipping, navigation and fire lighting along with various conservation work its going to be a busy and very fun year!

 We then drew up (and signed) a group contract before heading out to Corehead.

Richard Clarkson our project partner from the National Trust for Scotland went through some of the tools we'll be using through the year then we braved the blizzard for a walk around Corehead.

Looking forward to getting stuck in next month.

If you'd like to join the Junior Rangers (for 10 to 18 year olds) then please email

Community and Education Officer

Friday 9 January 2015

Wildwood by night

In the run up to Christmas we decided to put our trail cam out at Wildwood to see if we could capture images of some of our lowland woodland residents. One of our regular Tuesday volunteers and steering group member John has taken the lead on this and has provided us with some fantastic images. So what did we see?

A fox. This chap (and/or others) popped up a number of times
A hare
A snuffling badger
These are all animals that we know are living at Carrifran but it's great to have the images to show their movements at night time. They all play a role in the natural environment and form an important part of the food chain.

We have now moved the trail cam to a different location and will continue to move it to other places around Carrifran as well as to some of our other sites. We'll be sure to share any exciting footage!

Site Officer

Wednesday 7 January 2015

Winter wonderland: Hair Ice

Happy New Year to you all. We hope you had a wonderful break.

If you got out for a winter wander in the woods over the holidays, did you spot any frozen ice formations emerging from logs or sticks, looking something like this? Teresa who went walking in Langholm sent in these fantastic pictures.

This mysterious phenomenon  called Hair-Ice or Ice-Wool is caused by a combination of wet wood, cold temperatures and winter active fungi!
Although not fully understood it is thought that as the fungi living within the stick break down the nutrients they release carbon dioxide. The pressure of the gas pushes the water out of the stick. In addition the organic matter contained in this water acts as a catalyst, helping to rapidly freeze the water as it emerges and  creating these ephemeral ice sculptors! Fascinating stuff! For more in-depth information this is a great article

This picture shows the Hair-Ice remaining even when the ground frost has gone!

I certainly won't look at those little sticks in quite the same way again.

If you have any pictures we'd love to see them!

Community and Education officer