Thursday 15 December 2016

John Bruce Elliott Wood

At Hoprigshiels there are three wind turbines currently being constructed to allow affordable housing to be built in the Berwickshire area. The project has been in development by Berwickshire Community Renewables for years and finally got the go ahead earlier this year. There is a range of ‘habitat enhancement works’ that were undertaken as a part of the project. One such component of the works was a native woodland comprised of three compartments planted on a nearby farm (close to Oldhamstocks, East Lothian). The woodland had a very specific design as it had a number of purposes; improving the habitat for wildlife, creating shelter for sheep on the hill and to provide a visual screen between the conservation village of  Oldhamstocks and the wind turbines’ rotating blades.

The newly planted John Bruce Elliott wood.
Sadly John Bruce Elliot passed away in April 2015. John was a long-time friend and supporter of Borders Forest Trust and chairman of Berwickshire Housing Association (BHA). He was also for many years a Councillor with Scottish Borders Council and Chair of the Berwickshire Area Committee. He was very much an outdoor person and an active member of the Duns Walkers and Berwickshire branch of the Scottish Wildlife Trust.
  The community renewables project was a long term vision of John’s and it was decided by the project coordinators that the woodland planted as a part of the project would be named the ‘John Bruce Elliott Wood’, a fitting tribute.
Pleasant words and memories being shared by colleagues, family and friends

On November 4th myself and David Long (BFT trustee and friend of John Elliott) attended the naming ceremony which started at the Oldhamstocks village hall and was very well attended by John’s colleagues, friends and family.

John's daughter planting a Scots Pine in John's memory

 We all then headed to the new woodland and were greeted with a beautiful view of the coast and pleasant, crisp weather.

A toast and a fitting speech were given.

A few words were said by John’s colleagues and daughter who then revealed a beautiful wooden plaque carved by a local craftsman. A tree (Scots pine) was then planted and glasses raised in Johns memory.

The plaque which now stands among the trees in the new woodland.

It was a privilege to represent BFT in such a positive way and to coordinate the planting of a woodland that improves local woodland habitat connectivity and provides such strong ties to the local community.

Alasdair Fagan
Woodland Habitats Officer

Wednesday 9 November 2016

Corehead Autumn Adventures

In the School Holidays for the past two years we have run an 'Adventure Club.' This is open to people of all ages (adults, families and children alike! ) to take part in a wide range of activities, games and crafts at Corehead Farm.

The aim of these sessions are to use a diverse range of activities to help people connect with and learn about our natural world. Its about looking at the details in nature, helping notice what is around us and inspiring each other to take part in actions which conserve and restore it.  This can be through art and craft, wildlife surveys, bush craft, survival skills and nature games.

This October half term, we ran two sessions:

The first was all about hibernation and winter survival. We looked for hidden clues in the forest to discover how our different mammals adapt to the winter. We discovered Badgers, squirrels and mice aren't true hibernators, where as hedgehogs and bats are - dropping their body temperature and heart rate considerably.

We talked about different adaptations creatures have from the downy under feathers of small birds, to the cosy drays of squirrels. We then had a go at building our own dens... to house a hot water bottle....the challenge to see many degrees its temperature would drop in different dens!  Who could keep it the warmest!?

The winning Den!
Looking cosy!?

We then talked about the importance of fire for human survival in winter. lit our own fire and drank hot apple juice!

The second was more crafty, celebrating the turning off the seasons, by making leaf candle holders, and telling stories round a camp fire in the woods.

If you'd like to be updated of future Adventure club sessions in 2017 please email to be added to our mailing list.

Ali Murfitt
Site and Community Officer


Friday 4 November 2016

Community Bake Off!

What a beautiful Autumn its been this year! At Corehead, our conservation volunteers and Junior Rangers have been out and about, enjoying the Autumn sun, helping look after the orchard

Here are some highlights: 

The orchard
This is the first year that the trees have been old enough to leave some of the fruit on the trees, and after a good session of weeding round the trees it was apple picking time for the Junior Rangers !

Orchard Celebrations

First we had the Junior Rangers out in the orchard, weeding round the trees, raking up grass 

Then the picking commenced

The fun way to pick apples !

and the apple tasting!
Which variety tastes best!!?

Plenty of apples to go round!

Junior Rangers took them home to enjoy and have a go at baking with fresh apples from the tree

Here are some of the results
Apple Pie 

Reuben's crumble 
Apple Turnover

Apple smoothie! Yum!! 
Danny won the bake off challenge for productivity and variety, making a smoothie, turnover and crumble from the apples he took home!! Great stuff!!

Our adult volunteers have also been hard at work replacing and reinforcing the tree guards.

This winter we'll be holding a pruning workshop in the orchard...details coming soon

Ali Murfitt
Site and Community Officer 

Monday 29 August 2016

The seasons are shifting: Fungi at Corehead

The seasons are shifting and the fungi are out in beautiful displays at Corehead Farm. 

As you wander up to the beech tree, the giant polypore (Miripulis giganteus) is still fruiting at its cut off roots, living off the now deadwood underground.

Bachelors buttons (Bulgaria inquinans or 'Fairy trampolines' as I prefer to say, is on its trunk, tempting round disks which would be so fun to jump on if you were wee!

Porcelain fungus (Oudemansiella mucida) which will soon expand into a beautiful white translucent cap which the sun lights up, and dew drops glisten,  currently sprouts small and inconspicuous out of the main trunk and also the smaller logs and branches.

Over the years countless fungi will come and go on this fallen beech as they slowly return it to the soil.

Over in the grasslands, there are some areas where the 'gems' of the grasslands fruit. Waxcaps in golden yellow, scarlet red, parrot green, orange and white are beginning their spore laden display.

Part of a suite of fungi (which includes earth tongues, coral fungi, pink gills and crazed caps) waxcaps are indicators of old unimproved grassland which hasn't been ploughed, overly fertilised or heavily compacted. Its great to see a variety on the grassy knolls at Corehead.

Hidden under the bracken which we bashed around the young trees last week, some of the ectomycorrhizal or 'partner' fungi have already established themselves, swapping nutrients for sugar with the trees and helping them to grow.

Its all happening underground

Time to get out and see those Autumn displays!!

Ali Murfitt
Site and Community Officer

Friday 22 July 2016

We're covered in Bees

 A few weeks ago, Alasdair and myself attended a Bumblebee Identification workshop run by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust to learn the basics on how to accurately identify species and tell the difference between males, female workers and queens.

Look we caught a bee (and then let it go again...just in case you're worried!!)

Which bee is it? 

When it comes to telling bees apart its all about number and colour of stripes and how hairy are those legs! But first you need to tell if its even a bumblebee as there are many flies which imitate our bee's.

Check if the 'Bee' has small eyes and long antennae. Flies and Hoverflies tend to have short antennae and big eyes!

                                                     This a Bee Fly so not a Bee - look at its big eyes and short antennae                                                 (image copyright wikimedia commons by Gbohne)

Once you're sure its a bee then the position, colour and size of the stripes on a bee's body is crucial for identification. Workers, males, and queens can have different markings as well even though they are the same species.  The Bumblebee Conservation Trust has some great resources to help with identification.

Female workers have pollen baskets on the back legs which either have pollen on or appear smooth and shiny. Males (and the parasitic Cuckoo bees) don't have these and so the legs are hairy all the way round, they also appear 'lazy' (technical description!) as they only need to feed themselves and not provide for the nest. 

This is a female worker, spot the pollen on the back leg 
Shiny legs of a worker! 

This week the Corehead volunteers completed our first Bee Walk survey. Our transect goes through the meadow we have been managing to increase wildflowers and up into the five year old replanted native woodland in Tweedhope. Its going to be fascinating to see if number and diversity of bee species increase as habitat restoration at Corehead continues.  
Corehead survey in action 

We found a Tree Bumblebee, White tailed, Buff tailed, Common Carder and Blaeberry bumblebee.

The Tree Bumble is a relative new comer to Scotland and has slowly been making its way northwards and the Blaeberry Bumblebee is an upland species which a bright orange/red tail and abdomen! 

Thanks to John for the great photo above of  the Blaeberry Bumblebee on clover at Corehead

Site and Community Officer

Tuesday 28 June 2016

Wyches in the Woods

The second year of our involvement in the UK National Tree Seed Project in partnership with Kew Gardens’ Millenium Tree Seed Bank is underway. And what better way to start than with an early summer collection of Wych Elm (Ulmus glabra).

After getting landowner permissions for a woodland near Galashiels I had a good look around and found that it was full of Wych Elm and plenty of beautiful ancient woodland indicating flora. A few follow up visits confirmed the presence of huge numbers of seed across the woodland which would make for a perfect seed collection day with volunteers.

Heading into the woods in search of Wych's
Around the time of expected natural dispersal the weather was particularly warm and accelerated the rate at which the seed matured. For that reason it became really important to get into the wood as soon as possible to collect the thin, wind dispersible seed before they disappeared.

The date was set, the volunteers notified and the seed primed for collection. We arrived in the wood on a particularly warm morning and after I had explained the plan of attack I was followed swiftly by the ominous sound of rolling thunder threatening to ruin our day (and attempt to collect seed).

Wet work but someone has to do it!
Sure enough, seconds later the heavens opened, but that didn’t put off the hardy volunteers. We decided to persevere and we all got to work picking seed, tagging trees, taking grid references and using some specialist equipment (and a little elbow grease) to collect some seed from higher up in the canopy.
Anna looking happy with her haul
It became clear soon after we started that there was plenty of seed to be collected and that we would likely exceed the target (of 10,000 viable seed). We moved around the wood and collected seed from a number of different individual trees as best we could manage. The rain eventually eased off giving everyone the opportunity to dry out a little as we collected all the bags of seed together and headed back to the minibus.
Myself and the seed collecting team showcasing the fruits of our labour in the woods
 As we left the wood I took a herbarium specimen to press, this will accompany the seeds when they are sent to the Millennium Tree Seed Bank Partnership in West Sussex so that the scientists there can confirm that the seed are from the correct tree species.

The pressed herbarium specimen that will accompany the seed to the seed bank.
The collection day is where the volunteer involvement ends for a seed collection. But, not where the work ends. After the collection I will take the seed back to the office and process them appropriately. In most cases this includes drying the seed before packaging as to avoid them becoming mouldy or rotten. I also input the data I recorded on the date of collection which includes the National Grid Reference of each individual tree that seed was collected from, the woodland type, soil types, aspect and any other additional information about the woodland that might be beneficial for those studying 
the seed.

Elm seed drying in our head office
Once the seed is dried and packaged with the additional information and herbarium specimen and a courier is organised. They will be collected from our head office and make their way down to the seed bank facility in West Sussex to be processed and stored at a low temperature so that they can remain viable for years to come.
A few thousand seeds bagged, boxed and ready for delivery!

To find out about volunteering opportunities with this project please email either myself ( or Ali Murfitt ( 


Woodland Habitats Officer

Thursday 9 June 2016

Planting trees with the next generation.

The Borders Tree Planting Grant has now finished its first year and had lots of successful applications and interest from many different applicants including private landowners, farmers, community groups, organisations and schools.

Both Chirnside and Howdenburn (Jedburgh) Primary Schools successfully applied for the Tree Planting Grant and accessed funding for around 50 well established trees each. My Colleague, Anna Craigen is currently working with these schools on the All Things Green Project which aims to improve the schools’ grounds for outdoor education and wildlife, and to help students have access to more inspirational outdoor spaces.

Anna and I decided that a small orchard area (with apples, crab apples and plums) would really provide a unique learning resource for the school children at these schools leading into the future. These were each to be accompanied by small woodland areas (Birch, Wild Cherry, Rowan and Sessile Oak) that would be planted in a way such that there were areas available for outdoor classrooms amongst the trees.
Trees and planting spears at the ready

On the 23rd and 30th March 2016 Anna and I met at Chirnside and Howdenburn schools respectively to meet the tree deliveries. We unloaded and set out tools, and carefully placed all of the trees and tree protection throughout the planned areas. During the days we worked with school pupils (ranging in age from nursery to P7), teachers and adult helpers at both of the schools whilst managing to dig lots of holes, bury their trees into the holes and all play the ‘stomping game’ (heel firming the trees into their new homes). Although the rocky ground made digging hard going at times everyone got stuck in and we managed to get all the trees planted on both the days!

Hard at work digging up turf squares

We spent some time identifying the tree species before they were planted and talked about their benefits for wildlife. We then learned about the things that trees need to grow such as water, sunlight and nutrients the knowledge of the pupils was very impressive!
Two expert tree planters back filling their tree

A great couple of days of outdoor education, tree planting, getting muddy and rescuing worms!

The new woodland at Chirnside Primary School

The Borders Tree Planting Grant is designed to fund the planting of copses, small woodlands, parkland trees, tree lines, fruit trees, hedgerow trees under 0.25 Hectares. If you are interested in applying for funding to plant trees and live in the Scottish Borders please contact me via email at


Woodland Habitats Officer

Monday 6 June 2016

Corehead High Camp 2016

We were lucky enough to have bright sunshine and a cooling breeze for our second ever Corehead High Camp which happened a few weeks back.

Last year we focused on maintaining the fences that allow the trees to grow by excluding the sheep and deer (an on going task!).   This year, we were planting Juniper within the deer exclosure as part of  our project to restore Montane scrub habitat.  The aim is to transition from woodland to montane scrub to montane heath, spreading woodland up the hill, enhancing biodiversity and softening the boundary between large trees of the low grounds and open hill.

We were planting just below Whitehope Knowe at around 550 to 600m, conditions at this height are tough for trees, however some species such a Dwarf Birch, Juniper, and a variety of Montane Willows should do well here.

To give them a bit of a head start, we worked in pairs with one person using a mattock to remove vegetation and the other planting the Juniper into the prepared spot. Screefing the ground in this way reduces competition from grass roots whilst the tree is establishing.
Good luck Juniper!

It was a great spot to camp for the night, with stunning views of Lochan burn  and a sunset over the hills to the west. Not too icy in the morning this year either!

Walking back down through Tweedhope it was heartening to see how well the trees have established, as the spring flush of fresh young leaves shone a vibrant green in the sunshine.

They'll be more information about Montane scrub in the summer edition of the Green Shed, members magazine look out for that. 

Many thanks for James and John of Treeserv for helping to lead the camp, and to all the volunteers who got involved.


Site and Community Officer