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Newsletters Caledonia Wild! Summer 2008

magazine cover

Trees for Life magazine, Caledonia Wild!, Summer 2008

* Links to articles in other parts of this web site, rather than on this page.

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Our purchase of Dundreggan is complete, at last!

Enormous juniper, many times taller than Alan

Alan beside a huge juniper on Dundreggan - dwarfed by the tree, but not by the opportunity that the estate offers for forest restoration!

I'm delighted to report that on July 24th 2008, almost 27 months after we signed the legally-binding contract for the purchase of Dundreggan, our acquisition of the 4,000 hectare (10,000 acre) estate was completed. This is a remarkable achievement for Trees for Life! In many ways it is our single most significant accomplishment to date, and it is due in large measure to the tremendous backing we have received from our members, supporters and funding partners. My sincere and heartfelt thanks to everyone who has contributed to this huge step forward for us - it truly is a major breakthrough for our work to help restore the Caledonian Forest!

For me personally, the past 3 years, since I first became aware of the possibility of purchasing Dundreggan, have been an intensive experiential course in what it takes to follow a dream or inspired vision through to reality. It's led me right back to the original source of inspiration for Trees for Life itself - the feeling of being called by the land and the trees themselves to take positive action for their regeneration and restoration - and then to acting on that with total commitment and a clear vision. Just as with the founding of our work for the Caledonian Forest over 20 years ago, that commitment and clarity of purpose has evoked a wonderful response, and has enabled us to attract all the necessary resources such as funds, expertise, information and volunteers, to achieve our goal.

Birches on the edge of the Dundreggan woodland

The call of scattered birches such as these for company will soon be answered, now that we have taken ownership of Dundreggan.

There have of course been plenty of challenges along the way, and enough twists, turns and delays to provide the makings of a soap opera, so that at times it has been a real emotional rollercoaster ride for me, and for all of us here. However, throughout it all I've maintained an unshakeable confidence and faith in our ability to achieve our goal of having responsibility for our own large tract of land. That confidence stems in large part from both my connection with the land and the forest at Dundreggan, and also from knowing how much support we have for our work.

One of my favourite quotes, from an anonymous source, states that 'evolution is the history of the impossible made possible'. Thus, millions of years ago, before insects and then birds gained the power of flight, it was impossible for any organisms in the world to fly. Similarly, when I launched the Trees for Life project in 1986, I never imagined that one day it would be possible for us to raise £1.65 million and purchase a large Highland Estate. It is the evolution and growth of our knowledge, skills and abilities that has enabled us to achieve this breakthrough now.

That process, of increasing our capacity to achieve what formerly seemed impossible, is, I believe, another important facet of what we seek to exemplify and demonstrate through our work at Trees for Life. At times it often seems that the changes needed in our world today to achieve a truly sustainable human culture, in harmony and balance with all other life on the planet, are impossibly out of reach. I hope that our experience with Dundreggan will help to prove otherwise - that by working together with a positive vision, total commitment and focussed action, we can take the apparently impossible evolutionary step required of human culture at this time.

Alan Watson Featherstone


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Montane Scrub Project

Mark and dwarf birch

Mark Richards with a dwarf birch plant on Dundreggan. Photo by Mark Richards.

We've welcomed Mark Richards on a contract for 3 months this summer to progress our field work on the montane scrub species, focusing on Dundreggan and some of the neighbouring estates. Mark is well placed to undertake this work, and is used to coping with weather and midge hazards, as he completed a PhD last year studying competition between Scots pine and birch in Glen Affric. The Dundreggan vegetation survey last year, undertaken by botanists Ben and Alison Averis, noted the special interest of the estate for dwarf birch:

"Betula nana ... is extraordinarily common and widespread in the study area, finding a home in a wide range of vegetation types from wet bogs to damp heaths and from soligenous mires to acid grasslands. We have never seen so much of this species in so small an area ." the area where it occurs is of immense value for nature conservation."

Mark is therefore undertaking more detailed surveys of the dwarf birch population to record measurements of height and spread, flowering and seed production. We want to set up baseline monitoring positions across the montane zone on the Estate and identify specific areas for protection and regeneration. He will also be looking at opportunities for creating woodland networks with links to the pine and birch woodlands lower down and on neighbouring land. Bearing this in mind, on our annual staff day out in June we visited Creag Fhiaclach in the Cairngorms, where the pines became gradually more stunted and twisted as we climbed up the mountain, which supports the best example of a natural treeline in Britain.

The profile of montane scrub is being given a boost by the new Action for Mountain Woodland project, which has secured lottery funding for demonstration sites across Scotland (see Adam put a lot of work into this initiative in the planning stages and so I was pleased to attend the project launch where one of our directors, Diana Gilbert, was a speaker.

Mick Drury


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Beavers to return to Scotland at last!

We are delighted to report that the Scottish Government has issued a licence for a trial beaver reintroduction to take place in mid-Argyll. Up to four families of beavers, each comprising no more than two adults and their young, will be brought over from Norway this autumn, and released in spring 2009. The five year trial will be run by Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) on land managed by Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS).

The aims of the trial are to investigate the influence of beavers on the ecosystem and their effects on other land uses. It will also provide insights into how best to proceed with any wider reintroduction, as well as exploring the educational and tourism potential afforded by a beaver reintroduction. At the end of the trial, SWT could then apply to the Scottish Government for a further licence for a wider reintroduction.

Beavers were hunted to extinction around 400 years ago for their fur and castoreum, a secretion they use for scent-marking, and which was utilised by people as a medicine. Trees for Life fully supports the return of this charismatic mammal, which plays a crucial role in the health of wetland and riparian (riverside) forest ecosystems.

Since our practical work began, TFL have been carrying out a lot of work to ensure there is beaver-friendly habitat in sites such as Glen Affric. While beavers are fairly adaptable in their feeding requirements, by establishing large areas of riparian woodland, including aspen and other species, we hope to ensure that in the future, wild beaver populations will be able to take their rightful place as riparian woodland managers. By felling selected trees near the water, beavers can create structural diversity in the forest, providing habitat for numerous other living things. In some circumstances beavers create dams, which again benefits a vast range of wildlife, from dragonflies and fish to amphibians and otters, as well as improving water quality.

Dan Puplett



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Funding the Forest

New Trees for Life Volunteering Website online!

Back from one of our Conservation Holidays? Keep in touch and share your photos. Thinking of getting involved in environmental conservation? Talk to other volunteers. Want to talk about practical woodland conservation, re-wilding the Scottish Highlands, or anything Trees for Life related?

Committed supporter and focaliser Rob Pedley did an amazing job of creating a site for Trees for Life supporters to share their experiences, photos and recipes and a place that prospective volunteers can visit to find out more about what the Conservation Holidays involve. There's even a map showing the accommodation and work sites as well as the location of supporters who have joined this online community.

New quarter of a million trees target announced

Plant for the planet

We are very pleased to announce that we have pledged to plant 250,000 trees by the end of next year, as part of the expanded United Nations Environment Programme's Billion Tree Campaign, which is now aiming for 7 billion trees to be planted worldwide by the end of 2009. We are in fact well under way towards this target with this Spring season's planting contributing 70,063 to the total. And with the Autumn Conservation Holiday season getting into full swing over the next two months, we need your support to make our contribution towards this global effort a result.

In 2007, we surpassed our original commitment of 100,000 trees to the initial Billion Tree Campaign by planting 109,000 trees altogether, as part of our forest restoration work.

Alan, our Executive Director, says, 'With the world's environmental problems continuing to grow, we're raising our sights and the level of our response again with this new pledge. We invite and encourage more people to come and plant trees with us through our volunteer programme, to help us fulfil this new commitment'.

New 2009 Calendars and Diaries

Our new Calendars and Diaries are ready to order now through our distributors, The Natural Collection. They can be ordered here, or by telephone at 0870 331 3333. We receive a royalty for every calendar and diary sold, so support our work and order some of these informative, beautiful and useful items today! They can also be ordered via our own site.

Staff Corner


Pirouel Dickson
Photo by Kerrigan Bell

Pirouel Dickson joined Trees for Life after hearing about us over 10 years ago while working in London as an Interior Designer. 'I was working on redecorating a chain of pubs called Outside In and was responsible for making the artificial trees. Someone mentioned TFL and the Conservation Holidays so I went on one soon after.'

He focalised Conservation Holidays for 6 years and then became Conservation Holiday Co-ordinator in 2006. He says 'It's a lot more involved than I ever thought - there's a lot of logistical aspects to running the weeks, and it's challenging at times but also rewarding as I get the opportunity to get out and meet the volunteers and hear the positive feedback they give.' One of his goals for the future is to be around when TFL's millionth tree gets planted. Life is pretty full for Pirouel at work and at home - as he and his wife Ruth recently welcomed baby Zoe to the world, joining Calum who is 2 years old. He also volunteers at children's outdoor learning organisation Outfit Moray and loves to go mountain biking at night time (!). Thank you Pirouel, for your 'behind the scenes' efforts to make the Conservation Holidays happen and what's more, continually improve.

Company Supporters


An example of the TreeTwist products


The company TreeTwist started supporting TFL in December 2006, and has since supported the purchase and planting of over 1,500 trees. The TreeTwists themselves are woollen scarves, bracelets and clips that are handmade on the Orkney Islands. There are many different styles in the range, including TreeTies, WristTwists, TreeClips, and every person you see wearing one is responsible for a tree or seedling being planted.

Sez Maxted of TreeTwist said: 'We are extremely proud to be working with Trees for Life. Our aim via TreeTwist is to make tree planting fun by giving the customer a reminder of their tree, which can be worn and enjoyed every day. Through our work with a terrific, supportive Trees for Life team, that vision has become a reality."

We're grateful to TreeTwist for their support, as they are as committed to the environment and are as enthusiastic about our work as we are about theirs!

Receiving a large cheque

James Mitchell of Standard Life presenting a cheque for £10,000 to Alan Watson Featherstone, while other staff members Anneke Klop, Kerrigan Bell and Adam Powell look on.

Standard Life

We're very grateful again to Standard Life, for their ongoing support of the work we do. We received £10,000 recently when James Mitchell of Standard Life came and handed over a giant cheque in relation to the company's 'Go Paperless' campaign, in which it encourages its customer to receive information by email rather then letter. This means that to date, they have supported us with a whopping £160,000. By encouraging their customers to 'Go Paperless', Standard Life has not only made significant savings financially and environmentally, it has also given something back to the environment, with the forest now tens of thousands of trees better off.

If you know of a company that is looking to team up with a hard working charity for real business and environmental benefits, please contact me on: 0845 458 3505.

Wish List

Thank you to James Pirrie, Louise Lamonby, Michael Allinson and Frances Knight for contributing to items on our previous Wish List. We are now on the look out for funding for the following items:

  • One Ford Transit 17 Seater Minibus (£20,400) so we can efficiently run 3 Conservation Holidays at a time!
  • Nine Office Chairs (£99 each) so all the staff can work comfortably.
  • New deer fence for the nursery extension at Plodda (£880) - vital to keep the deer away from the tasty saplings.
  • New trailer for use at Plodda Lodge (£900).
  • Reference books for office and Conservation Holiday book boxes (£250)
  • Outdoor clothing for field staff (£560)

If you can supply us with any of these items, or can contribute towards their purchase, please contact the office. We'd love to hear from you! Tel: 0845 458 3505.

Kerrigan Bell


See Caledonia Wild! Magazines, for excerpts from other editions.

First published: August 2008. First published online, December 2008.
Last updated: 01 December 2012

Trees for Life is an award winning conservation charity working to restore the Caledonian Forest
and all its species to a large contiguous area in the Highlands of Scotland.

Trees for Life is a registered charity Scottish charity No. SC021303, and a company limited by guarantee No. 143304 with its registered offices at Forres, Scotland.
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Photos © Alan Watson (unless otherwise indicated) - Banner Credits - Illustrations © Caragh McAuley

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