Scotland team share ideas at Ben Shieldaig
On 23rd and 24th September the staff team from Woodland Trust Scotland descended on the village of Shieldaig to put our heads together about our plans for this spectacular new aquisition in terms of restoring and expanding this special forested mountain.
Malcolm Turner, Project Development Manager and Donnie Chisholm, Site Manager shared with us some of the progress to date.
The ecological baseline survey has already started, including flora and fauna, and in particular birds, ready for an application for the Scottish Forestry Grant Scheme. Survey outcomes will inform woodland creation plans and the Management Plan for the site, which will be ready for consultation in summer 2020. It’s very exciting as the site is teeming with wildlife and Atlantic rainforest species of fungi, bryophytes and lichens. There are potentially rare species, such as the Black darter dragonfly, or endemic species, such as Scottish Beard Moss. 33 Red squirrels were introduced to the site in 2016 in partnership with Trees for Life and have bred successfully. We will be looking to assess how much their numbers have expanded.
The mountain has two main woodland habitat types, ancient Caledonian Pinewood on one side of the mountain, and birch woodland on the other, as well as some large areas of open ground. We have already started deer control, including repairing one of the main deer fences. There is already a considerable amount of natural regeneration on site, which demonstrates to us that deer pressure isn’t too bad.
Our ambition is to expand the pinewood and the birch woodland so that they meet in the middle and join together. One particularly exciting aspects of the pinewood is that it is potentially genetically distinct from more easterly pinewoods, such as in the Cairngorms. We plan to expand the pinewood into the open areas up Glen Damph.
Malcolm and Donnie have already forged positive links with the community and neighbouring landowners, all of whom are keen to be involved. Members of the Shieldaig Community Association presented at our meeting and provided us with a delicious lunch.
Opposite to the pinewood is Kinloch Woodlands, run as a SCIO (Scottish Community Interest Company). They have already carried out extensive planting on their site, putting half a million trees into the ground over 20 years, and doing a great job of controlling deer numbers, and we can learn a lot from them. Couldoran Estate also borders the site and Donnie and Malcolm are making connections there too. We also plan to work closely with the National Trust for Scotland who look after Beinn Eighe, and expect there to be opportunities for collaborative volunteering activity.
In terms of tree planting, we will probably start on the Loch Damph side, with the first trees to be planted in autumn 2020, and then again in autumn 2021. For both of these plantings we will apply for the Scottish Forestry Grant Scheme. On top of this we will also use our own funds for smaller pockets of planting, for example less accessible areas near the crags, and montane planting.
The site provides opportunity for useful research. The challenging soil conditions, with nutrient deficiency (particularly phosphates) affect tree growth rates. We will, for example be working with academic institutions to set up trial plots to assess the impact of introducing mycorrhiza into new planting sites. If successful, this technique could then be applicable for use on a wider scale.
In the longer term we hope to continue to work with neighbouring landowners with a partnership approach to develop a large ribbon of Atlantic Woodland across Wester Ross. Times are very exciting!
Scotland Volunteering Development Officer