Added on Friday 25 Apr 2008
We are just back from our Trees for Life Adventure this year in Glen Cannich.
The first thing that we all did when we arrived was go on this amazing walk in Glen Affric to see the majestic old Scots Pine Trees ? ?the Granny Pines?. As we looked around it was obvious that what was missing was any new wee trees. It is the Grannies some 200 - 350 years old or nothing! We then walked on up into the hillside to the Trees for Life ?Exclosure?. Here there were pines everywhere and of all ages. The difference being that the deer are ?excluded? from the area and the trees get a chance to grow. What an inspiration for the rest of our week.
I don?t want to get all theoretical but a wee bit of background will help you understand my passion for this project.
When you observe the Scottish Hills, like me you may think that the rugged, barren landscape is typical of the Scottish Highlands. Well, I have learned that this is not the case!! We should be able to look up and see natural forest dotting the skyline not bare hillside! The great forest of Caledon once covered over 1.5 million hectares of the Scottish Highlands, and was home to a rich assemblage of plants and animals.
The forest ran from the Highlands through to Loch Lomond and has been depleted over hundreds of years due to a number of key historical and economic events. These include the Highland Clearances and the introduction of sheep farming, the intensive planting by the Forestry Commission for quicker growing trees during the war years and as commercial lumber. All of this has had a major impact on our native Scottish natural woodlands. Today just 1% of the forest remains. The surviving remnants of the forest are ageing and fragmented, and because of overgrazing, the trees are struggling to regenerate naturally.
Fortunately, the priorities of the Forestry Commission have now changed and they are carrying out a great deal of excellent work to reverse the situation, and are protecting and restoring native woodlands on a large scale, as well as increasing the diversity within plantations.
So what happens on a volunteer work week. Normally, a group of ten volunteers makes up a work week. People of all ages, backgrounds and from all parts of the UK and beyond. Volunteers are supported by Trees for Life staff (Focalisers) who are extremely knowledgeable about the Forest and its wildlife.
During the week we discover that we are there for all sorts of reasons however we all have one thing in common, contributing to restoring the great forest of Caledon. Some of the things I like best about the work week are working together as a group, sharing in the preparation of meals and planning the work out on the hills. And of course, the hills themselves, unbelievable countryside, views and weather. Living in the city as we do, it is fantastic to be out in the open, high up in the Scottish Highlands and actually experiencing weather! One minute it can be lovely sunshine, the next cold, wet and a howling gale. Trees for Life have a mini bus that gets us to our planting location so although the walking can be a bit rough it is not too difficult. If I can do it anybody can! This year there was a great mix of ages of volunteers and I felt that I was well able to carry out the tasks.
Our planting site this year was on a hillside at Cougie between Glen Affric and Glen Urquart. Our work week planted 4,000 baby Scots Pine Trees. The site was chosen by the Forestry Commission as it was a hillside that was the wrong side of the wind (a technical term you know) for carrying pine seeds. There was a work week before and one after us so in total in excess of 12,000 baby Scots Pine trees would be planted. Planting is a group activity and everyone helps each other. It is also a great time to chat and get to know one another. Or just to stop and look up at the most amazing scenery. That?s me with my baby tree!
Another task of the Work week is fence clearing. These are old Forestry Commission Fences that are no longer needed and are a hazard to black grouse etc. but would be too expensive for them to remove so they get us mad tree huggers to do it. But it?s fab! What a sense of satisfaction when the fence comes down and the countryside opens up. This year the fence was particularly difficult, broken down, rusty, over grown and of course in a bog. That got rid of that fence then!
This year we had a visit to the Trees for Life Estate at Dungreggan near Glen Moriston. Dungreggan is a beautiful place and has been up to now used as a sporting estate owned by a wealthy Italian who only visited it six weeks in the year! Trees for Life now have the opportunity to transform it, nurture the trees and bring it back to life. We were the first work week to visit Dundreggan and do some work on the estate. We all felt very privileged. We cut down some ?baddie? trees (another technical term), removed some more fencing and collected pine cones for the nursery.
Of course not all of the work week is about tree planting. Getting to know the other volunteers is all part of it. Everyone got on really well and we shared a good few laughs, some communal singing sessions (sad songs only) some great dinners and too many cups of tea! By the end of the week we were loathe to leave one another but all had a shared consciousness about the value in restoring the great Forest of Caledon for future generations. I look forward to meeting up with you all again! I hope that you like the photos of this inspirational area. Trees for Life can be contacted at www.treesforlife.org.uk
Did you know that in our own city we have an ancient tree attraction? In the Fossil Grove situated in the Victoria Park