Oct 01 2020

The Ground Beneath My Feet

Alison Stewart is a very dedicated volunteer Woods Under Threat Detector, whereby she reviews planning registers for applications that may involved damage to ancient woodlands and trees.  Her role also includes reviewing local authority development plans, again carefully looking to see if woods and trees are getting a good deal and for any threats.   I hope Alison won’t mind us adding the reminder that she was a Volunteer of the Year Award winner in 2018.


Alison is also one of your two Scotland National Volunteering Panel Representatives, the other being Ian Baird.  They will be running a session as part of our first Scotland online volunteer gathering on Wednesday 4th November.  I do hope many of you sign up for the event.

In this article, Alison has shared her lockdown experience with us.  It’s a truly lovely piece!:


I’ve always been a big picture kind of person. At work I excelled at planning a job and making sure it got done but was not so great at checking all the details. When I’m out and about I love the big vistas, that take in the whole landscape. However, something about the slower pace of life during lockdown made me start to notice some of the smaller things around me; the fungi, the lichens, the bugs and especially the wild flowers.


When lockdown started in March, nature was still very much in its winter colours. The first flowers I noticed were those I seen in my woodland walks, wood sorrel and wood anemones, whose white flowers fitted in with the muted palette around them. Only the yellow of lesser celandine gave a taste of what was to come. In April, things were still pretty low key until dog violets began to appear around the woodland edge; then daisy’s, dandelions and cuckoo flowers started to appear on the uncut grass. The bright yellow of gorse began to dominate on more open ground and in the hedgerow, hawthorn blossom was beginning to appear.


Towards the end of May, the woodland suddenly became swathed in a purple carpet as the bluebells reached their peak. A spell of wet weather meant that this year that spectacle was sadly short lived. However, by June flowers were popping up everywhere and the landscape became a kaleidoscope of colour. Every other day I would come across species that I had never seen before, or perhaps I should say I had never noticed before. I bought a book of Scottish Wild Flowers and did my best to identify them. Some of them had fantastic names like woundwort and scurvy grass, hinting at medicinal uses in times gone by.


It is now early September and another purple carpet has appeared and this time it is the heather that provides the hazy hue. I learn that there are three types of heather (I can’t believe I didn’t know that!) All three are found in this area but it is the upright, scrubby ling heather that dominates. Purple also dominates the valleys with knapweed and creeping thistle both now beginning to fade and being replaced by the slender stalks of field scabious providing a late feast for pollinators.


Despite the restrictions and the terrible events unfolding around the world, lockdown has allowed me time to reflect and realise that good things really can come in small packages.


Alison Stewart

Woods Under Threat Detector

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