Thursday 23 April 2015

Happy High Campers

Last weekend we held our annual Carrifran Wildwood High Camp. Started originally by our old project officer Hugh Chalmers, this event has proved to be popular year on year and this time around was no exception.
The event booked up quite quickly under the title 'Scrubbing up the mountain'; no prizes for guessing that this year we were focussing on expanding our planting of montane scrub.
Before the weekend we had to get the trees up to the site. Helped by our contractor Keith Threadgall, we spent a day on the quads moving the trees and some other weekend bits and pieces into place. It was rather unnerving to be whizzing along a snow covered Carrifran Gans but with a warmer week promised by the MetOffice, we kept our nerve for the weekend.

Delivering the trees in the snow
We had a stock check of approximately 1,100 trees. Most of these were Downy Willow (Salix lapponum), some Grey Willow (Salix cinerea), a few Dark-leaved willow (Salix phylicifolia) and a few Juniper (Juniperus communis).
On the Saturday morning we had a planting army of 14 volunteers who met at the Wildwood car park. We began a leisurely walk up the valley, stopping at points to highlight some of the work our Tuesday volunteers have achieved this year.
The walk up
Once we made it to Firth Hope we set up camp and had a bite to eat before a briefing on the task ahead.
Some tents were more tricky to put up than others......
Camping in the sun!
We focussed the planting of the Downy willow along the edges of the Firth Hope and Little Firthhope burns. The rest of the trees we spread around the Firth Hope valley.

Planters on the hillsides

A freshly planted Downy willow
After a tough day on the hill and a spot of dinner some of us took a walk up to White Coombe (photos courtesy of Julian Hall, High Camp volunteer).

On day 2 we completed the rest of the planting and spent the final few hours removing some old tree guards.
We also took some time to check out the work we did at last years High Camp in Little Firthhope.
Cotton grass and sphagnum moss coming through the jute
It really was an excellent weekend with a great bunch of hard working, enthusiastic people. Bring on Carrifran Wildwood High Camp 2016 (with the same weather please).
The team!
Site Officer

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Spring Adventures

It was the first of our Adventure Clubs last week..and the theme...Spring challenge using all of our senses.

First we built a birds nest using only one beak (hand in our case!!) We discovered its a lot more tricky then you'd think. Not easy to break sticks with only one hand so selecting the right size and shape is key and working together helped too.

We then used our 'owl vision' to see what strange ojects we could spot hidden on the forest floor and in the branches following a trail through the woods.

 After using our eyes it was time to try life without that sense, and we took turns to be blindfolded, led to a tree and then after feeling the bark, its shape and where the branches stuck out, were led away again. With the blindfold taken off we had to rediscover which tree we had met! Everyone got top marks. 

Finally we sowed wildflower seeds which everyone got to take home

Hope that they grow and provide nectar for lots of bees and butterflies this summer!!

Looking forward to the summer adventure clubs already :)


Community and Education Officer

Junior Rangers at Grey Mares Tail

For the April Junior rangers, we went to the National Trust for Scotland property Grey Mares Tail to do some conservation work there.

First we had the chance to look at the peregrine nest using a live nest camera set up on the hill. Everyone had the chance to use the camera controls to see if they could spot it! 

It was snowing on and off so we played a lots of games to keep warm but that didn't stop us getting to work and doing some path clearance on the path that leads up to the stunning waterfall.

We then hiked up the now cleared path (well part of it at least!!) to see the dramatic falls

Well done everyone!! 

Next Junior Rangers will be on the 9th May at Corehead Farm


Community and Education Officer. 

Friday 17 April 2015

Montane scrub for Corehead?

This weekend we have our annual High Camp at Carrifran where we will be heading up into Firth Hope to plant a variety of montane scrub species.
We have done a little bit of this at Corehead but we are hoping to extend current planting. In order to plan for this we had a visit by Stuart Adair and Philip Ashmole to give advice on suitability and how best to go about this.
We met at the top of the BeefTub and began the walk towards Hartfell. Along the way we had some interesting discussions about access and path maintenance, the impact of a possible nearby windfarm development as well as getting distracted at some interesting spots along the way.
Harestail Bog Cotton Eriophorum vaginatum

Damage caused by quads and other vehicles from when we were planting in Lochan Burn are starting to re-vegetate
Some of this erosion has allowed small bog pools to develop - great habitat for frogs and invertebrates
Spot the tadpoles
As we approached Lochan Burn we stopped for a break and looked towards the areas we are considering for montane scrub.

Looking across Lochan Burn towards Hartfell
Stuart and Philip provided some interesting suggestions on the planting of species such as Dwarf birch Betula nana, Downy willow Salix lapponum, Tea leaved willow Salix phylicifolia and Juniper Junipurus communis, up to about 650m. These are all 'low growing' species which over time will form a carpet of shrubs rather than a high canopy woodland which just wouldn't grow at this height. 
Stuart looking at the soils on Hartfell shoulder. Some areas were surprisingly peaty with better soils found under patches of wood rush Luzula sylvatica

Green flushes like these would be perfect for Downy willow Salix lapponum

Stuart emphasised the importance of heather and blaeberry on the slopes, as an important precursor to planting. Although this was patchy, and in some cases absent on parts of Hartfell shoulder, he was encouraged by regeneration in other areas and explained that given a few years, these would spread and would be suitable for Juniper planting.
It was a really  interesting day and Stuart is going to write a report for us. It was also really useful to walk the site and see what species are starting to recover since grazing ceased. Interestingly, a lot of these things you would quite commonly find in woodlands!

Wood anemone Anemone nemorosa

Opposite leaved golden saxifrage Chrysosplenium oppositifolium

Natural regeneration of Rowan Sorbus aucuparia

Wood sorrel Oxalis acetosella

Primrose Primula vulgaris

Coltsfoot Tussilago farfara and Horsetail Equisetum arvense in Whitehope

A large length of decaying wood that had fallen from an old Rowan along the Pot Burn
Mole hills!

Site Officer

Thursday 9 April 2015

Sowing the seed at Corehead

Fresh back from cultivating half of Southland New Zealand, James ploughed and established our one hectare of wild bird seed crop.
James ploughing in the sun
Turning the soil buries any grass sward and gives the seed sown a chance to grow without competition. It also speeds up drying so that the disc harrows can break the land down to a fine tilth.
An additional benefit comes from stimulating any uneaten seed from last year's crop into growth. This year's seed went in at the perfect time and in perfect  weather conditions.
Spreading the seed
A healthy diet for our feathered friends should be assured for winter, providing their black cousins don't scoff it before it grows! Scarecrow measures however, have been taken.
Our scarecrows! Very technical plastic bags on sticks which flap in the wind and scare off the crows
Corehead Farmer
Note from editor: Just for interest this year we have sowed a mix of red clover, flax, fodder radish, logo triticale, oat and white mustard. If you'd like to know more about the benefits of wild bird cover crops, follow this link to the RSPB website.

Monday 6 April 2015

Dry Stone Dyking Workshop

Many thanks to Martin Tilstone who led a fantastic workshop at Corehead Farm on Saturday 4th April.

We started off at a sheep stell for a bit of practise and to get the hang of the basic techniques. 

We learnt to grade stones into different shapes and sizes, from the precious 'through stones' which will span the width of a wall, right through to the small irregular stones packed in the gap between the two faces of a wall known as 'fillings' or 'hearting.'

We quickly discovered the old myth 'that a dyker once picking up a stone will always find its place in the wall'  didn't apply to us (or even a master dyker most likely!) and that each stone needed careful placement with its longest edge facing into the wall, sitting firm and level.  There was no shame in putting a stone down and trying again! 

Once we got the hang of it we headed over to a wall which was vital to keep the sheep (and soon young lambs) out of one of the plantation shelter belts.

There were five sections which needed repair work and working in teams we undertook the tasks with martin running between each group offering much needed advice and assistance! 

In a couple of hours the wall was repaired :)  

Here are some before and after shots!

Can you tell old from new!? 

A really great day.

Ali Murfitt 

Community and Education officer