Dec 14 2020

A sleigh ride through Woodland Trust Scotland’s 2020 volunteering highlights!

Dear Woodland Trust Scotland volunteers,


It’s been quite a year and perhaps the most notable memory from 2020 for us in terms of volunteering is that nearly all our volunteers have stuck with us!  All the team at Woodland Trust Scotland would like to offer heartfelt thanks to you all, continuing with your volunteer roles despite the logistical challenges that pesky Covid has thrown our way.


However, I also wanted to reassure you that if your circumstances have changed due to Covid, or if you just don’t feel safe to go out and carry out your role,  we absolutely don’t want you to feel any pressure to get going again..we want you to start volunteering again when you feel ready and safe – just let your volunteer manager know if you get a chance!


So what are your 2020 volunteering highlights?


Wildlife has featured strongly.   New volunteers are out and about monitoring, surveying and engaging with the public about wildlife across Scotland.  At Ledmore and Migdale 12 trusty red squirrel monitors have been feeding and keeping an eye on our newly translocated red squirrels.   You can read more about them here or watch the video here.  Following closely on the heels are our new red squirrel monitors at Ben Shieldaig, who will be doing the same kind of thing.


At Loch Arkaig Pine Forest, we have some new wild boar monitors, who are supporting our work there to restore the ancient Caledonian pine wood.  The volunteers won’t (intentionally!) get up close to these magnificent beasties…instead these volunteers will be setting up, maintaining and monitoring camera traps across this vast, beautiful and remote site.  They have only just started in the last couple of weeks – we’ll keep you posted as to what they manage to record in the deep, dark forest!


Across the UK, the Woodland Trust and other organisations have set massive tree planting targets in order to mitigate climate change and to restore woodland biodiversity. In Scotland we only have 18% woodland cover and only 4% of our woodland is native. Only 1.5% is ancient woodland (by far the most biodiverse) and only half of that ancient woodland if in favourable condition, so we really do have an emergency on our hands to increase woodland cover dramatically across Scotland.


As the demand for native trees to plant increases as a result of ambitious targets, the supply starts to crumble a bit.  We are already finding in Scotland that we can’t always get locally provenant native trees to plant in on our sites and in projects working with other landowners.


One exciting move to help address this is our shiny new Scotland pilot, where volunteers will be collecting tree seeds to supply nurseries to grow on, ready for us to buy the trees back when they are ready to plant.  As well as there being shortages in certain tree zones, particularly in the north of Scotland, there are also shortages across the country for species such as wild crab apple, montaine willows, and rare species such as Arran Whitebeam.  We already have more than 10 volunteers signed up to collect seeds at Loch Arkaig and Glen Finglas.  You can read about the first collection day at Loch Arkaig here.


Seed collection is something I’m incredibly excited about and in 2021 we hope to be recruiting many more seed collection volunteers…watch this space!


It’s not just about new projects though.  All through most of 2020, wardens have still been wardening, ancient tree verifiers have still been working hard to record and verify trees for the Ancient Tree Inventory and campaigners have still been campaigning, to name just a few of over 40 volunteer roles.


It was absolutely brilliant that our Woodland Working Groups were able to get out there and get going again in October.  The Kinclaven Bluebell Wood group has made the most of this green light and already run two Rhododendron pointicum bashing sessions, and one wonderful tree planting event, marking the end of the planting of over 30,000 trees in the fields that the Woodland Trust acquired adjacent to the ancient oak wood.  The Glen Finglas and Portmoak groups have also been active again too, reparing footpaths at Glen Finglas and removing invasive birch regeneration at Portmoak Moss raised bog.


A stunning fogbow appeared as the mist was clearing at our final planting day, organised incredibly efficiently by the Woodland Working Group, at Kinclaven Bluebell Wood.


I am so proud of all our Woodland Trust Scotland volunteers.  When I first joined the Trust in 2016 we had 156 volunteers in Scotland.  We now have nearly 400 and I’m delighted to have met so many of you!  Don’t forget our Christmas Blether and quiz this Thursday 17th at 7.00pm – 8.00pm on Zoom.  Here’s the Zoom link:

Meeting ID: 988 5075 2790 Passcode: 497969

No need to book, just turn up with a glass of something festive and a mince pie in hand!


Last but not least, the Scotland Team and I wish you all a merry Christmas and all the very best for 2021.


Matilda Scharsach

Scotland Volunteering Development Officer








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