Added on Monday 20 Apr 2009
This year our "Trees for Life work week" found us based at Attadale in the far north of Scotland near Lochcarron in Wester Ross. On reporting of this adventure the first thing that I have to mention is the weather. There was snow, hail and sleet, then sleet, snow and hail accompanied by gail force winds for a week!! You think that I am exaggerating well have a look at the photos.
Fortunately, the accommodation was first class, lovely clean well appointed cottages, open fires plus our bed linen and towels. It's the nearest to luxury for TFL and thanks to our fire lighting skills we were always warm and cosy.
The Cottages are in the grounds of Attadale House which is quite an isolated spot. Once you arrive, there are no shops for miles, so a tip is to stock up with a good supply of wine (or beer or strong drink if you prefer), chocolate and crisps, or whatever other treats required when you arrive in Inverness.
Attadale House and the surrounding area has a lot to offer. It has gardens which are open to the Public and offer a good range of features such as a Japanese Garden, Kitchen garden and water garden. Majestic Stags and deer roam around the grounds and are pretty tame.
I really enjoyed the planting sites we were working at this year. One was high up on a mountainside at upper Glen Carron. As its location is against the prevailing wind there is little chance of the Scot's Pine self seeding therefore we were there to help Mother Nature along. Between this site and another one lower down we planted 3510 baby Scots Pine. Not bad for eleven of us. (Chris from the Forestry Commission also helped out a fair bit!) One of our volunteers this year, Sam, came from Norfolk and he just stood on the hillside on the first day staring. On asking him if he was okay he replied that he had never seen a mountain before. Well if you have never seen a mountain then that was the place to see them - looking over to the Torridon Range. The mountains (Liathach, Beinn Alligin, Sgorr Ruadh and Beinn Eighe) are some of the highest in Britain, rising in places almost vertically to 3500 feet from the deep sea lochs. Many visitors to the area remark upon the unusual atmosphere - it is truly one of the world's rarest and special places. The next day when we were out at the site the mist was so far down the hill you would not even know the Mountains were there!
This year I planted a baby Scots Pine tree especially to celebrate the birth of my new wee Great Nephew - Rudy, the first grandchild on our side of the family. Replanting the Great Forest of Caledon is for his future. (I, of course, planted trees again for my girls and all my family and friends).
Our other task of the week was tree felling. Again another task I really enjoy. Thanks to Simon, this year I learned how to improve my sawing skills, (a life skill I really need) and was able to saw down a few big "baddie trees". Sounds weird doesn't it that we were felling trees in a tree restoration project, however the trees that we were removing were Sitka Spruce, Lodgepole pine etc - "Baddie Trees" which are non-native species of trees which grow at double the rate and crowd out the Scots Pine and other native trees such as Hazel and Birch. Here we cleared a site the size of one and a half football pitches. When were driving away from the site in the minibus we could all really see the difference that we had made.
As usual the food was fab during the week. This year there was more "choppers" than "cooks" and I seemed to be in the kitchen getting the dinner organised on a good few nights. It was a great way of getting to know each other better. A major theme of the week was cake!! One member of our team Lena, was an outstanding cake maker and even took on the challenge of baking a vegan cake. The creation was christened "Bananarama".
The only day we got anything like nice weather was on the Wednesday- fortunately our day off! We met up with our old friends Ann and Alan MacDonald and set off to Applecross for the day. I had never been over the Bealach na Ba, (Pass of the Cattle), which crosses the peninsula and reaches a maximum height of 2053 ft (626 m), below the 774 m high Sgurr a' Chaorachain, so it was quite a treat. I always remember my Mum telling me how scared she was on the road with my Dad on one of their trips to the Highlands "Jimmy you will need to get a helicopter to get me out of here". The views from the top were amazing and we could see all the way to the Outer Hebrides and Dunn Can on Rassay. We had fantastic bar lunch in the Applecross Inn and a walk along the shore to Toscaig to see all the wee houses before heading home.
We had a wonderful week, in spite of some quite challenging weather and as usual met some lovely people. "Hi to you all". We finished off the week with a coffee with other old friends Jim and Susan Piper in Inverness before heading (by train as we got cheap tickets this year I refuse to mention why) back to Glasgow.
At our last evening meal together Simon recited this poem and as we were all confirmed "tree huggers" by that time, thought was fab!! Hope you do too.
May the turning of the Earth save us.
May the turning of the seasons & the turning of the leaves save us.
May we be saved by the worms, the beetles & the microbes turning the soil.
May we be saved by the turning of vegetation into compost & the turning of compost into rich soil.
May the turning of seeds into plants & the turning of flowers into fruits save us.
May the grasses & weeds, the vines & mosses all conspire to save us.
May we be saved by the turning of sprouts into saplings, of saplings into trees, & the trees into forests.
May the scurrying, foraging, pouncing & lumbering of the animals save us.
May the breath of heaven in the breezes & the stormy winds save us.
May the dance of the butterflies, & the musical flight & return of the birds save us.
May we be saved by vapors turning into clouds & by the turning of the ever-changing clouds into rain.
May the waters flowing from springs into the lakes save us.
May the streams flowing into rivers, the rivers into seas, & the great heaving of the oceans save us.
May we be saved by the patient turning of the rocks, the hills, the mountains, & the volcanoes.
May the metabolism of the climates of the Earth save us.
May the turnings of all Beings great & small move us to find wisdom in our own turnings.
May we be saved by our waking & sleeping, by the rhythms of our blood
& our appetites, by the cycles of birthing & nurturing, injury & healing,
mating & nesting, loss & discovery, joy & mourning.
May we find in time the grace to turn to one another, & may this turning also become our salvation.
May we learn to benefit the life of Earth with peace, humble in our needs, & generous in our giving.
May we learn to celebrate the abundance of life with gratitude, & to embrace the Earth with our bodies in return.
-- Joanne Sunshower