Wednesday 23 September 2015

SNH take a walk on the wild side

Yesterday we welcomed our second visiting SNH (Scottish Natural Heritage) group to Borders Forest Trust this month. We were hosting a large group of staff from the Rural Resources Unit who had made a long journey from Inverness to see us. This was part of a 3 day team excursion which was visiting a number of projects around the area, including a stop off at our National Trust for Scotland neighbours at Grey Mares Tail.
The BFT welcoming party grabbing a bite to eat before our visitors arrived. The volunteers had already done a full mornings work by this time! As well as John, Robin and Malcolm we were also joined by Reuben Singleton and David Long (BFT Trustees) and Stuart Adair, Fi Martynoga, John Thomas, Philip Ashmole and Myrtle Ashmole (Wildwood Steering group members)
After a brief welcome and introduction we headed straight up to the viewpoint at the stell.
John and Philip use a map to show the extent of BFT land - also in SNH designated wild land!
John Thomas, our vice chairman  gave an introductory background to the role of BFT and our 3 main sites at Corehead, Carrifran and Talla and Gameshope.
John with a valley backdrop. Sally the dog is keeping a watchful eye on proceedings
A captive audience
Philip Ashmole added more information to the whole project including a history of the formation of the Wildwood Steering Group, the purchase of the site and the planting of the valley. Philip emphasised that from day one volunteers have been a central part to the Carrifran project and highlighted that is still the case today.
Philip giving his talk
It was then the turn of John Savory, long term regular Tuesday volunteer. John organises our annual bird survey and keeps all of our wildlife records. John explained that the survey has been running for 10 years now and gave some fascinating facts which illustrated the return of woodland birds to the valley and how they are starting to become more prevalent than previously dominating upland birds such as meadow pipits and wheatear. And as if we'd arranged it on that day we recorded our first ever ChiffChaff in the valley and had a fly past by a Jay.
John talking about the bird survey
Before we headed into the valley we had a really interesting introduction by Stuart Adair to the survey work that has been carried out over the years. Stuart has recently finished a resurvey of the vegetation and has written an excellent article which will be soon published in Scottish Forestry.
Stuart encourage everyone to 'look at the valley'. The success of the project speaks for itself
By this stage we were all keen to get into the valley and have a stroll through the establishing woodland. We headed for the hovel, about mid way in, and had another stop where we had a talk on the practical aspects of the project, the work the volunteers do and how we get around the logistics of making the ideas into a reality.
Site Officer in action!
At this point we had some interesting 'teaser' discussions about the impacts of grazing and conservation management of habitats. Sadly we didn't have time to explore these further as we were only able to walk a further 100m into the valley before a leisurely amble back to the car park.
A big thank you must go to Kate Holl from SNH for organising the visit and to all the staff for coming along. It was great to introduce many newcomers to the site and we hope that the team left feeling inspired by the achievements to date, just some of the results of which they saw for themselves. A wild valley. And every day becoming even wilder....
Site Officer
And thanks to Philip Ashmole and Robin Sloan for the pictures!

Tuesday 15 September 2015

A Wildwood day out

As our next planting season is approaching, we decided to pay one of our main suppliers Alba Trees a visit. The aim of the day was to get an introduction to their operation and see how our trees for this year are getting on.

Just one of the large area of trees growing on for planting
Jackie and Craig from Alba (in the yellow) showing round Philip, Jane, Malcolm and Ian

One of the core principles of the Wildwood project is to grow trees of local provenance - that is trees grown from seeds and/or cuttings that have been taken from natural tree stands as close to the site as possible.

Our collection sites needed to be as local as possible and similar to Carrifran, with particular attention being paid to altitude. At any given site, seed should be collected from many different trees, so as to encompass the full genetic variation within the source population. We also needed to collect seed for each species from a number of different places, to guard against the risk that some relict small populations might be inbred and thus genetically impoverished. Maximising diversity within our new populations would also ensure that even if some individuals within the planting stock turned out to be unfit for the places where we planted them, others would be better suited.
Extract taken from 'The Carrifran Wildwood Story'
Chapter 7, p.108
Myrtle and Philip Ashmole 2009

Our seed collection programme is carefully masterminded by a few members of the Wildwood steering group. Any collections are then sent on the same day (or as soon as) by post to the team at Alba trees who grow them into our planting stock.

This year we have a mixture of trees that may be available for planting so one of the things we wanted to get an impression of was what is definitely ready for this year and what we will leave until next year. We simply decide by taking the 'hardiest' stock, and leaving those that need a bit more toughening up for next year.

By far the most widely available stock ready for us this year are willows, in particular Downy, Tea leaved and Dark leaved willows. Most of these will be suitable for our higher montane planting. In addition we have some Juniper (also good for high up), Downy Birch and Guelder Rose.
Some of our willows ready to go
Some Tea leaved willows ready after just a few months
Philip and Craig looking at our Juniper stock
And these Guelder Rose and Bog Myrtle are ready to go

We also had a look at some of our future stock which will be ready for next year which includes Goat Willow, Grey Willow and Scots Pine.
These little pines will be ready for us in a few years
And these are some more of ours! We're going to be busy....
It was a great day out and one that was really useful for our team to get an idea of the journey from seed/cutting to tree. We even managed to get a look at what some other organisations are growing on. With around 14,000,000 trees in stock, ours seemed like a small drop in a very large, green ocean!
Some Sweet Chestnut being grown for the Woodland Trust
And some Dwarf Birch being grown for Trees for Life
Many thanks must go to Jackie and Craig at Alba for taking the time to show us around.

Site Officer

Monday 14 September 2015

The return of the Talla fencers

5 optimists gathered at Talla on a wet and misty Sunday morning with the crazy intention of mending the eastern boundary fence, not in the valley, but on the very top of the hill.  Where else in such miserable conditions ?!
Picking tools up kindly left by Lynn at the barn and posts dumped at the foot of Wood Brae this dubious looking group plodded slowly but steadily shedding the posts on the way until they were enjoying the full force of the wet and windy conditions at the top of Nickies Knowe.
Nevertheless a morning of steady work stringing wires, belting in posts and tapping staples, regardless of the frequent showers, concluded with friendly lunchtime discussion over damp sandwiches and steaming coffee.
A little more work on the top followed by an afternoon spent lower down repairing the fence on Wood Brae – a name to conjure with for woodland enthusiasts, needless to say it is currently devoid of trees and shrubs – ended the day with a great sense of achievement. 
And of course the sun came out as we came off the hill.  At least it dried us out.  Thanks to all those in the photo.
BFT Vice Chair

Thursday 10 September 2015

SNH come to Corehead

This week at Corehead we were very lucky to be joined by the southern Scotland team from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). They contacted us a few months back asking if we'd like to have their help one morning and of course we said yes!
Many of the team hadn't been to Corehead before so we had a bit of a chat first thing about the site before getting to work.
One group headed over to the Annandale Way to cut back some vegetation that was starting to grow over the path. A second group headed into a small patch of planting we have next to the river. This small riparian strip is the area we use for memorial plantings so the team here were doing a bit of hand weeding of any trees that were getting choked by surrounding vegetation.

The final group attacked a length of fence we have in the in-bye. Our own volunteer team had tackled this a few months back so it was great to get another chunk done.

It's a big thank you from us to the SNH team for all their help!
Site Officer