blossom on gean cherry
Jun 16 2020

A Question of Size?

Our local golf course has been a place of some wonder in the last few weeks. As we (cautiously) emerge from lockdown, I know how valuable this space has been for local people. We are fortunate to have plenty of green space on our doorstep, including this golf course, for taking exercise. It’s been – and remains – so important to stay connected to nature to help us get through this!


Dougalston  is a parkland course on the outskirts of Milngavie to the north of Glasgow. It has lots of woodland areas and it’s also hummocky drumlin country with plenty of ups and downs for walkers and golfers. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC) gives us rights and responsibilities of access on golf courses. See the information on the SOAC site.


Some years ago, a woodland walk was created skirting round the playing areas. It’s a well used route, but I had not explored much of the golf course itself till the lockdown. Getting familiar with the plants and animals that we came across was amazing!


These parklands and woodlands were laid out as part of the Dougalston Estate of John Glassford (1715-1783), one of Glasgow’s ‘Tobacco Lords’ whose “wealth was based upon the expropriation of labour of enslaved people and he was also a personal slave-owner in Scotland”. (From University of Glasgow website. ) Glassford’s business interests were diverse. For a short account of the activities of the Tobacco merchants and of Glassford’s role, see the text of a talk given by Sir Tom Devine, social and economic historian, on this aspect of Glasgow’s story.


Screen shot of 1817 map from NLS

Screenshot, ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’


Dougalston House was demolished in the middle years of the 20th century and the golf course was opened in the mid 1970s. A map of Stirling county published in 1817 (Grassom’s map, see it  here, part of the National Library of Scotland map images collection) shows the designed landscape layout of Dougalston, parts of which remain in place today. There are some magnificent beech trees in the woods. Here are photos of the  biggest we found, taken on 20th April and, from two viewpoints, on 27th May.



A check of the Ancient Tree Inventory  showed this tree was not included in the current database.  A download and a read of the instructions for girth measurement was next, and then we were ready to tackle the question of size.  So, I will submit the measurements of our lovely XL beech!  Trees entered on the ATI are verified (at least, that’s what I think happens),  maybe by someone who will read this as a WTS volunteer, who knows?


Thinking about the ATI lent another purpose to visits for lockdown exercise, and it was fun! And now I’ve got my eye on photos of a contorted yew on Loch Lomondside that I’ve passed by many times. Yews are very special and I am looking forward to reading more about measuring their wonderful shapes.   I’d like to add that one to the ATI at some point too.


Maggie McCallum

Glen Finglas Woodland Engagement Volunteer


1 Comment
  • Matilda Scharsach

    What an interesting article, Maggie..thanks for sharing. How lovely that such a serene and beautiful place has arisen from a historical past of money from slavery.
    I’m glad to hear that you have the tree recording bug! You’d better watch out – we’ll be signing you up as a verifier soon!
    Do let us know if you record that yew. I love ancient yews too! We visited the Whyttingehame Yew at one of my volunteer networking events last year..I don’t think you made it to that one. I highly recommend a visit if you haven’t seen it already albeit that you need permission from the landowner to go and see it.

    August 11, 2020 at 4:44 pm

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