Sep 23 2020

Woodland Trust Scotland news

Dear Woodland Trust Scotland volunteers,


The pandemic has infiltrated all our lives in so many ways – how we travel, socialise, work, eat and exercise.  It’s had a big impact on activities and priorities at the Trust too.  Despite many of our staff being placed on furlough, our work continued throughout April, May and June, with the changed circumstances creating challenges and opportunities along the way.


We are still working hard to protect, restore and create woodlands, and as usual volunteers are playing a big part in that.  Here is some of our latest Woodland Trust Scotland news.  Grab a cuppa and I hope you enjoy the catch up!


Volunteering Events


I hope to be able to see some of you soon; we have been working on ways that we can stay in touch via online meet ups and learning opportunities, and our first Volunteer Gathering is to be on Wednesday 4th November at 6.00pm – 7.30pm.  You’ll hear from staff and volunteers aline, ranging from topics such as red squirrel translocation, to life as a Woodland Working Group Leader or a Lead Observatree volunteer.  Read more about the event and book your place here:


In previous years I have run volunteer gatherings that give you all an opportunity to meet other volunteers and staff from a variety of roles.  It’s hard to imagine that this time last year we were building up to our first ever Scotland Volunteering Conference, and I miss getting out and about – events are my favourite part of my job!  Online gatherings will be no real substitute for seeing you all face to face out in a beautiful wood somewhere, but it will be great to catch up nevertheless.  I hope to see as many faces as possible on my screen!


Our Estate



Ash trees by the paths at our Formonthills site in Fife are sadly having to bw felled because they are dying of Chalara, or Ash Die-back



It’s been business as usual for our Site Managers during lockdown, with our woodlands still there to manage, paths to repair, diseased ash trees to fell and all the other day to day work on our sites.   One Site Manager, Tara Fraser, surveyed 16,000 ash trees this summer for Ash Dieback and her autumn tree inspections have now started. She says she may soon need new boots, with the soles almost worn through from all the walking and surveying!








Some of our managers have noticed a marked increase in fly tipping and litter, but on a positive note, also many more people out and about enjoying our woods on their doorsteps than before Covid hit.  At Dunollie Wood, our relatively recent acquisition in Oban, Ross Watson, Site Manager, says that there has been a mich increased interest in the wood from local people who may not have visited woods before, and that this interest has blossomed in some people he has come across into a keenness to get involved in volunteering in the wood.


Those of you that are volunteer wardens have been mostly back in action since July, and have continued your vitally important role of being our eyes and ears across our sites, and carrying out minor maintenance tasks for us, so thank you so much for that!


At Glen Finglas the newly assigned Relief Wardens, alongside the wonderful Adopt a Path volunteers, have been working with Gwen Raes, the Estate Ranger, to do some path repairs as well as giving a lick of paint to our site information boards and signage.  Gwen has shared this beautiful photo of Glen Finglas developing its beautiful autumnal colour palette.



Glen Finglas – Image by Gwen Raes, Estate Ranger


At our Glen Finglas estate, peat restoration work has commenced on site.  Glen Finglas forms part of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Nature Reserve.  One of the management purposes of the Great Trossachs Forest National Nature Reserve is the conservation of its important habitats and species, with the whole landscape being managed for the benefit of wildlife and people. Included in the important habitats is moorland, one of the ‘classic’ landscapes of Scotland’s uplands containing habitats of
heather or upland peat bogs. Open moorland areas of The Great Trossachs Forest NNR are important to a wide range of wildlife including those needing both wooded and open areas for feeding and breeding, such as the black grouse and wildcat.   It’s widely recognised now that healthy peat bogs are important for locking up carbon, for biodiversity, and for water quality. 


However, much of the peat at Glen Finglas is in poor shape, having been damaged by water erosion of the bare hillsides and by forestry operations. Work that has been started on site to restore the peat habitat includes re-profiling peat hags to create stability and to control water flow, as well as work to turf over exposed peat. 


Exposed peat hags are an issue at Glen Finglas


Here is a digger in action at the start of this important work.





Public Affairs


Arina Russell, our enthusiastic Public Affairs Manager for Scotland shares her news:



You may think that coronavirus and lockdown would have made a role that is about public affairs less busy. But let me tell you this is not the case. Our little team of two now has a new Public Affairs Officer, Naïma Todd, who will be working with the volunteer Woods Under Threat Detectors keen to engage in Local Development Plans. While these consultations have stalled for just a moment in spring, local authorities are certainly catching up. Naïma is still finding her feet but cannot wait to meet you and work with the dedicated threat detectors. She has already responded to the Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City local consultations, to familiarise herself with the process, but will soon reach out for help from threat detectors. She’ll also be busy engaging local authorities with some exciting projects we have in the pipeline.


We currently have gaps in our Woods Under Threat Detector volunteer coverage across Scotland, for example in the Cairngorms, Perth and Kinross and Dumfries and Galloway.  These are priority areas for us in that they contain more than 1000 hectares of ancient woodland.


If you are interested in adding this interesting and vitally important volunteering role to your bow, then please do get in touch and we’ll tell you more about it.  You don’t need any knowledge of the planning system for the main part of the role, which is reviewing planning registers for applications for developments that threaten ancient woodlands.  However, some knowledge would be beneficial if you are to take part in the optional additional part, which is reviewing development plans for potential threats to woodlands.


If you’d like to know more, then please get in touch with Victoria Willetts, the Volunteer Manager, who can tell you more and sign you up if you’re still keen.  You can email her at


As for my world of national government and Scottish Parliament, I’ve been working hard on getting our voice heard in green recovery proposals. As we all stopped and admired nature around us, and the air cleared and noise disappeared, we could hear birdsong but also we could see in this an opportunity to reset – to make our economy work for nature and for people. For example, if we create woodlands and plant more trees, we can deliver more jobs, sequester more carbon, give wildlife a home and also have beautiful landscapes to enjoy and access. Green recovery is about recovering from the pandemic but in a way that allows us to ensure that as we recover we look after nature and tackle climate change.


Outreach – Woodland Creation


Furloughed briefly in the early stages of the pandemic, our Outreach Team are now in full swing, with demand from private landowners and communities for woodland creation support as high as ever.


An interesting project is developing at an estate in rural Perthshire, on a scale that it can easily be referred to as the Knepp of the North.  Knepp is the famous rural estate in West Sussex where Isabella Tree and her partner are rewilding their land, and which prompted Isabella to write the associated book , “Wilding”.


The owners of the estate here in Scotland that our Outreach team are supporting are aiming to recreate ancient low density large herbivore wood pasture, using Heck cattle, Tamworth Pigs and Konick ponies. 


The hardy Heck cattle are the closest domestic cattle breed in appearance to the auroch, which is an extinct species of large wild cattle that inhabited Asia, Europe, and North Africa.  These cattle are the result of an attempt by the Heck brothers in Germany to breed back the extinct aurochs from modern aurochs-derived cattle in the 1920s and 1930s.


The hardy and long horned Heck cattle Copyright Hans de Bischopp Flickr Creative Commons


The Konik pony is a very hardy breed originating from Eastern Europe ideally suited to wetland environments. They can help to create other habitats such as well trodden paths through areas of long grass, dusty hollows where they roll, water-filled hoof prints and piles of dung. The animals act as catalysts to help attract new species of flora and fauna to an area that they graze.  Koniks are widely used in nature reserves across Europe and are considered to be possible descendants of wild horses in Poland called tarpan.


Konick pony Copyright Mia Flickr Creative Commons



The Tamworth is considered Britain’s oldest pure breed and is similar in appearance to the Old English Forest Pig.  Of all the native breeds the Tamworth experienced the least influence from imports of Asian pigs during the 18th and 19th centuries.  There are differing theories as to how the breed originally developed with one theory being the breed was influenced by the import of red pigs from Barbados! The Tamworth is a good, hardy breed for rooting and does well in a woodland setting.  Their ginger coats protect them from sunburn.


A Tamworth sow and her piglets copyright Drew Richardson Flickr Creative Commons



At least 1000 trees are to be planted as part of this Perthshire project this autumn, with, hopefully, help from the scouts and other community organisations with the planting.




All the very best, and I’m looking forward to seeing all your photography and haiku competition entries! 


Matilda Scharsach


Scotland Volunteering Development Officer






  • Gwen Raes

    Nice write up Matilda 🙂 Can you share which Perthshire Estate aims to re-create this wood pasture?

    September 28, 2020 at 10:52 am

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