Monday 21 December 2015

A wee bit of shelter

So we've all been talking a lot about the weather. For those of you not in the Dumfries and Galloway area - we've had a fair bit of rain. In fact a lot of rain. Really it rains pretty much all of the time and has done for the last couple of months.
But that hasn't deterred our Corehead volunteer team from tackling a new project - starting the clearance of our shelterbelts. When we purchased Corehead in 2009, we did inherit some trees but they were in the form of mostly non-native conifers such as Larch and Sitka Spruce and were planted in 4 shelterbelts.
A shelterbelt is a group of trees often planted to give (you guessed it!) shelter! The trees would give some protection from harsh weather conditions and on farms it is often a place where stock can gather for shelter.
We had hoped to tackle these earlier but are currently working on a plan to address how best to go about this - it all takes time.
In the meantime we have started to do some small scale clearance of windblown trees in InBye Wood. This is the easiest of all our shelterbelts to access and really was in a bit of a mess with access difficult making it all rather unsafe!
Where to start!!??
It's trees like this that we've been tackling. Cue the embarrassing stuck chainsaw picture!
We decided to clear up as much as possible. Whilst it's not a great thing to talk about 'tidying' a woodland ('untidy' woodlands are often the most diverse) we agreed that doing some clearance so that we could at least move around in there would be a good start. We agreed to stack any large wood and leave this to decay naturally (most of it was rotten to begin with) and burn any brash on a raised platform to minimise damage to the ground.
Our burning platform. Corrugated sheets of iron on some metal field gates set on rolls of old mesh fencing wire.

The fire gets well going!
And the platform means scaring and damage is minimal.
There is also a fringe of laurel bushes on the northern edge. Laurel is not a shrub we would want to encourage - it can be very invasive and take over large areas - so that was to come out as well. But instead of burning the brash we created piles - did you know laurel leaves have cyanide in them? Not a great idea therefore to burn on the fire and realise into the air for those around to breathe in!
Tackling the laurel!
We have spent around 3 days working in the shelterbelt and it's definitely made a huge difference already. There is still plenty of work to do and, funds permitting, we will look to do more felling (subject to approval from the Forestry Commission and SNH). We are investigating opportunities for selling any wood we take out - much of it is past it's best or too tricky to extract without causing a lot of damage but we are considering all options!
Site Officer

Tuesday 1 December 2015

The Wildwood planting season begins

With winter rapidly approaching, it can only mean one thing at Wildwood..... the beginning of planting season.
We found out during the summer months what species we would have available for planting. This all depends on the variety and quantity of seeds and cuttings that have been collected by volunteers and successfully grown on by Alba trees, ready for planting this winter. We were also expecting a delivery of Aspen from Cheviot trees and we always have a number of volunteers who grow small numbers of trees - we never know exactly what or how many but these make a welcome addition to our overall species mix and total.

One of our volunteer 'tree growers' dropping off a lovely mix of mostly Elm and Juniper
We arranged for delivery a few Tuesdays ago and with various lorries and cars all arriving within an hour of each other, the process ran rather smoothly!
We managed to offload everything into the car park before starting the sorting process. Although as seasoned volunteer and expert tree planter Les said 'it's always intimidating when the trees arrive'. Very true words - there seemed to be so many of them!!
The trees all sorted into their groups in the tree pen
Once we know stock availability, we put together a site planting plan based on species suitability and areas we identify as needing more trees. This is always subject to change but gives us a good idea beforehand of what trees need to go where and helps to arrange drop offs.
So what's the running total? Well this winter we have approximately 6,477 trees, of which around 5,472 we'll try and plant with our volunteers. The remainder is for our annual spring High Camp. Later in the winter/early spring we are expecting another delivery with even more trees but we'll cross that bridge when we're ready too (that's a whole other blog post!).
We're planting in a range of places across the valley including (ref. map) some high spots at the back and in Rispie Lairs, but also low down as well. And this year we have a nice mix including;
Downy willow Salix lapponum (high planting)
Tea leaved willow Salix phylicifolia (high planting)
Dark leaved willow Salix myrsinifolia (high planting)
Juniper Juniperus communis (high planting)
Aspen Populus tremula (mixture of high and low planting)
Downy birch Betula pubescens (low planting)
Wych elm Ulmus glabra (low planting)
And how have things gone to date? Well the season started off well with sun, sun and more sun! Volunteers were spotted sunbathing during breaks and whilst the planting ground was tough going, the weather was fantastic!
A day in the life of a Carrifran tree planter! Actually it's more like...
Well that was never going to last.....
this. The rain came....
and came until......
we had to abandon ship as the burn was rising fast and we had to cross it!
The team on another wet day having a break before the rains come in
Since then we've had 3 wet Tuesdays in a row culminating in today where we've had to cancel due to bad conditions. But the volunteers have put in a superb effort so far with 1,925 trees already in the ground. The big question now is when will the snow come.... Watch this space
Site Officer

P.S. Many thanks to Robin Sloan and Philip Ashmole for sharing pictures