Spotlight on two Scotland Volunteers – a first year collecting seed
Jim and Elspeth Gibb are relatively new Woodland Trust volunteers – two of the 230 volunteers who signed up in 2021 in Scotland to collect tree seeds for us for much needed trees for our own and other land.
I asked them to write a piece to share their experiences so far, and they have written this really interesting and entertaining article. Have a cuppa and enjoy the read!……
The Woodland trust Facebook post calling for volunteers to gather acorns and hazelnuts on the west coast struck a resounding chord. This was a Project for us to help the environment.
The simple idea of gathering where you enjoyed walking anyway was a no-brainer and the chance of hub based collecting added another dimension.
Elspeth and I knew of several local walks around Cardross with oaks, though hazels appeared scarce, but hearing that we could join the ‘hub’ at Crinan woods gave us the excuse to play in mid Argyll, where Elspeth grew up.
The wait for official permission to gather from private landowners was very frustrating, but soon Ardmore Point, a lovely peninsula jutting into the Clyde estuary, the oak lined track to Drumhead house, Cardross Golf Course and Kilmahew woods, with its ancient castle and St Peter’s Seminary ruins, were producing a steady supply of acorns, but precious few hazelnuts.
We joined a training session with Craig Shearer, our volunteer manager, at Crinan, and learned to recognize hazels on the trees, and the value of a grappling hook while adding to the group haul of hazelnuts, but were too early for acorns. We also slipped off to our favourite walk round Barnluasgan Loch and found it positively dripping with hazels.
Back home with only maybe one oak in 6 fruiting at all, two generous trees in Kilmahew Woods gave me a kilo of acorns on one day, and then only a dribble! A week later another on the golf course took up the challenge, as long as I managed to avoid the golfers. Rapid picking skills and eyes in the back of my head were developed!
Another trip to Crinan, staying at Rhugalach cottage (highly recommended) was rewarded with a good mixed bag of hazels and acorns, but very confusing picking them out of the leaf litter in the half light! We were also delighted to help out Mike, the volunteer warden there, and also a volunteer seed collector, by doing a last pick of his acorn nets and then delivering them back to the shed. A friend at Carnasserie invited us to pick on her farm, which led to more heads down in the leaf litter among a bank of ancient hazels, and a small gathering of acorns.
Back home again, news that West Dumbartonshire was happy for us to collect in their parks, led us swiftly to Balloch Park where there were lots of mature oaks, but only one in 10 or so feeling generous! 2 or 3 helped us reach 2 kilos with maybe 10 more chipping in the odd handful.
At home nature’s bounty was regularly spread out on trays on the dining room table to dry off a bit and be sorted, then weighed and packed off to Craig Shearer after doing battle with the paperwork.
In a final flourish at the end of November a call went out to volunteers to gather some holly and alder. The trees round our garden supplied some holly berries and a Barnluasgan trip supplied some Alder, though I think Craig got more last years dry empty seed pods than this years. We’ll know better in 2022.
What’s not to like? Long walks in the fresh air, beating the grey squirrels to the acorns, adding to the seed bank for our grandchildren’s woods, learning to recognize Hazel trees in different seasons.
Downsides? Having to ask people for permission to gather rather sticks in the craw! This year the slow start led to early crops being lost because permission hadn’t arrived. Some didn’t bother to reply. One said no. One took so long saying yes, the acorns were finished for 2021. One wants to do their own gathering this year so new sources will need to be found.
December and January walks have had an added focus of ‘are there any oak trees’ and ‘spot the Hazel catkins’. Hazels are still thin on the ground around Cardross, but a promising mixed oakwood on Loch Lomondside has been highlighted to the Trust to try to get permissions sorted out in time for next year’s harvest roll – on the autumn! Another tempting site would be the Craufurdland Estate in Ayrshire, where the ancient oak illustrated was full of acorns last year.
Jim and Elspeth Gibb
Scotland Tree Seed Collection volunteers