Apr 03 2020

My virtual ramblings around our precious Scotland woods

This hermit’s lock-down life has really crystallized for me just how important being in green and peaceful spaces is.  Connecting with nature is just the best way of relaxing and for clearing and sorting of thoughts….a sort of brain flush! My recent daily walks with my family around my home in rural Perthshire have given me extra time to take in the small things – fungi on rotting deadwood, bright yellow lichens with their ‘jam tart’ fruiting bodies, flocks of long tailed tits and just all that lovely fresh air.


But I miss visiting our stunning Woodland Trust Scotland sites so I thought I’d take a virtual ramble through some of them, and share with you some memories and what I love about them.


First that springs to mind is Crinan Wood, reached on foot along the pretty Crinan Canal in Argyll. It is the archetypal Atlantic rainforest paradise. 



Dripping with epiphytes like the spectacular Lobaria pulmonaria (Tree lungwort),  it really does feel like our very own lush, Scottish jungle!  As Lobaria resembles lung tissue, the Victorians used to use it to treat lung conditions…under their “doctrine of principles”, whereby if something resembled something it was assumed to be connected to it medicinally.  The same is true for Peltigera canina (Dog lichen) which has sinister looking fangs on its underside,  and so was assumed to be good for treating dog bites.


Lobaria pulmonaria, or Tree Lungwort, assumed to be good for treating lung disorders


At Crinan there are stunning old twisted oak trees, bluebells in spring, a wonderful area called New York, and some spectacular views of the sea from the hills in the site. Last year we had a Scotland team meeting there, for all Scotland staff.  Those of us who hadn’t visited Crinan before were blown away by how special it is.  Mike Murray is the volunteer warden for the site and has been helping to remove bracken for us, amongst many other helpful tasks, for years at Crinan.  Tara Fraser is the site manager for Crinan – what a lucky lady is she!


Alasdair Firth, Ancient Woodland Restoration Officer, and a spectacular ancient oak.

Lobaria virens – a much brighter green than Lobaria pulmonaria

George Anderson, our brilliant PR man.

Wilsons filmy fern, an iconic rainforest species

More of Alasdair’s spectacular oak

Delicate Porcelein fungi on Alasdair’s oak


On the path to New York!

New York, New York! The Woodland Trust Scotland team prepare for a video of the famous song. I can safely inform you that we need to stick to our day jobs!!


Do visit Crinan Wood after the Corona lockdown has lifted. You are in for such a treat!


Another favourite of mine if Formonthills. Dovetailing into the fringes of Glenrothes, for some reason this site to me has a real sense of dignity.  From its high point there are commanding views of the Forth estuary, and it’s great to stand by the wonderful totem pole and take it all in.  Much of the woodland on the site was planted by us within the last 20 years, and it’s beginning to really take shape.



A couple of years ago I met volunteers Judy Dowling and Ian Baird there, for our planned interview with Mark Stephen from BBC Radio Scotland’s Out of Doors programme. He interviewed us about volunteering with the Trust, but to my horror he started the interview by asking me to describe what was around us, which threw me as I wasn’t expecting it.  I rambled on about young birch trees, campion and blue tits.  Turning on the radio at 7am on Saturday, I was dreading to hear our piece, but actually we all came across pretty well, if I say it myself, with Judy and Ian projecting so well as wonderful ambassadors for the Trust and volunteering.


Volunteers Ian (left) and Judy after their interview with Mark Stephen (right) for BBC Radio Scotland Out of Doors


Jill Aitken is the Site Manager at Formonthills, supported by a hardy bunch of wardens, who do a wonderful job of removing old tree tubes and clearing blocked ditches. Thanks so much guys!


Last winter we held our Development Team meeting at Formonthills.   Here are some photos of our walk and Christmas BBQ, which was attended by some of our volunteers too!



Last that popped into my head is Ledmore and Migdale (“L&M”). This stunning site is managed by Ross Watson, our wonderful Site Manager for Northern Scotland.  Ross has an amazing army of volunteers at L&M – from the 15 or so squirrel monitors, to the 4 wardens and 2 ecological monitors.  The squirrel monitors have been busy keeping a close eye on the newly released red squirrels, that arrived via a partnership project with Trees for Life.   Ross first announced that L&M was to be used as a red squirrel recipient site at a staff meeting just before Christmas.  Ross was frustrated that we were in the Christmas spirit, asking silly questions like “Will they be arriving in parachutes, with knapsacks full of of acorns?”.


One of my favourite visits to L&M was for 2 days of collecting crab apple and downy birch seeds with volunteers from the Seed Collection Champion role, which sadly no-longer exists. We had such a lovely day – happy memories!  It was actually also one of my volunteer gatherings, open to all volunteers in Scotland, and we were also joined by Fraser, one of the Formonthills wardens, who I think had a great time!  We were staying in the local pub, which wasn’t actually open for food the night we were there, but the landlord opened up the kitchen especially for us, and rustled up one of the best fish and chip supper mountains I’ve ever eaten!


Collecting downy birch seed with volunteers, at Ledmore and Migdale

Hooking down crab apples with a very long handled lopper!


I’d love to hear stories from some of your special places, be it Woodland Trust woods or other wild spaces. It might be the wood that you volunteer in, or just somewhere you visited and have great memories.


Please do send them to me and I’ll post them here on Whittle. If you email me the text, I can send you a link to send the photos.


Take care all.


Matilda Scharsach

Scotland Volunteering Development Officer







1 Comment

Post a Comment