Trees for Life magazine, Caledonia Wild! Winter 2003
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Magic in the forest
Recently, I had a remarkable experience when I completed the first draft of the species profile on tooth fungi which accompanies this magazine. I'd been gathering information about these interesting fungi for some time, and a few years ago I had been informed by a friend who has surveyed fungi in Affric of the location where one of the rare species (Sarcodon imbricatus) grows there. Keen to photograph this fungus. I had searched for it throughout the autumns of 2001 and 2002, but without success, and I looked again in September this year, also to no avail. So it was that, disappointed not to have any photographs of that species, I set about writing the profile anyway.
I completed the draft on a Friday afternoon, and the next day, when I went to Glen Affric, I decided on the spur of the moment to have one more look at the site where the fungus had been recorded from. Imagine then my surprise and delight to immediately discover four specimens in prime condition, just where my friend told me they grew! This was one of those magic moments for me, when a deeper, more mysterious relationship with Nature is revealed - having 'met' the fungi through the research and writing I had done in the office, I was ready to meet them in the forest as well.
For some, this may seem merely an interesting synchronicity, but it's much more than that for me, as such events regularly occur when I'm out in the forest. Another recent example took place when I went with Adam and Paul to the site at Allt Coire an t-Sneachda, which Adam describes below. All three of us had been to the site before, to survey the aspen stand, and to investigate the potential for a regeneration scheme there. None of us had seen any Scots pine seedlings, but as we walked towards the site that day, I had a strong inner feeling that we would find some pines, despite the distance from any possible seed source. So it was that, within a few minutes of walking up alongside the stream, I spotted a tiny pine seedling, just a few centimetres high - a seeming miracle in the landscape!
Then, two weeks ago, when I was in Glen Affric for a few days to photograph the autumn colours, I passed a steep rocky area which seemed to call out to me to investigate it. I had had the same feeling on several occasions in the past, but I had always ignored it. This time I didn't, and as I scrambled up the cliff, I discovered an aspen stand previously unknown to us, although it's only 50 metres from the road and we've passed it by hundreds of times before!
It is through experiences like these that I encounter magic when I'm in the forest. It's the magic of being deeply connected with Nature all around me, with my heart fully open. I'm part of the forest then, just like the trees and the fungi, and special things happen.
With this issue of Caledonia Wild!, we're launching a new feature on the back page - a Caledonian Forest Photo Gallery. Our intention with this is to convey in images the beauty of the forest, and I hope that this will bring some of that special inner magic to our readers as well.
Alan Watson Featherstone
September: the thief of summer
Treading New Ground
Beinn Eun, Bird Hill, is a minor peak on the north side of Glen Affric with steep rocky flanks on which a scatter of birch, rowan and aspen have managed to survive, out of the reach of browsing deer. On its south east side is a high, shallow corrie named for its tendency to hold a large snowfield late into the spring, Coire an T-Sneachda, the snowy corrie. The stream of the same name flows down from the corrie and then eastwards, becoming the Allt na h-Imrich before it enters Loch Beinn a'Mheadhoin. There are two rocky little gorges on the stream which harbour clusters of trees including birch, rowan, willow and aspen and under their shade we found wood crane's-bill, globe flower, dog violet, wood anemone, great woodrush, alpine bistort, starry saxifrage and yellow pimpernel. This interesting assemblage of species is indicative of a base-rich flush of fertile ground and has never been observed together in Glen Affric before. It was to gather data on the aspen stand that we visited the site and whilst there the idea came up to fence the area for natural regeneration of the woodland and the ground flora. This was proposed to the FC at a recent meeting and met with a warm reception.
This new site is strategically important too, lying almost midway between the Coille Ruigh and Meallan woodland restoration exclosures, and it would provide a vital stepping stone as a future seed source to aid wider woodland recovery in the area. We have now marked out a proposed fence line on the site and during the course of this process we made the exciting discovery of one small Scots pine seedling and a 2 metre-tall pine, complete with a cone, within the proposed area. Also within the area, of course, is the aspen stand (on which we found a caterpillar of the pebble prominent moth, Notodonta ziczac, and several leaf beetles, Phratora vitellinae) which should burgeon with the protection of a fence. The next steps are to confirm the acceptability of the proposed fence line with FC, arrange to have the 11 hectare (27 acre) area fenced and sit back to watch a beautiful patch of native woodland develop!
"Stream of the pockets"
In the last issue of Caledonia Wild! I wrote about exciting possibilities on the Achlain Estate in Glen Moriston and am now very pleased to report that they would like to go ahead with one of our proposals.
I referred to the Allt Phocaichain, stream of the pockets, as a woodland conservationist's dream project. It combines riparian, or riverside, forest with a link to the FC pine woodland restoration work further downstream and will be a vital part of reinstating a natural woodland progression to montane scrub on the higher ground. Dwarf birch is abundant here and wild cranberry has been found amongst the heather, along with other berry species which form the montane scrub vegetation community.
If the draft proposal is implemented, about 36.5 hectares (90 acres) will be deer-fenced there, and natural regeneration will be the primary mechanism to restore woodland to the site. As there is a limited number of trees (only one Scots pine) and the species range is quite narrow, planting will take place to supplement natural regeneration and improve the species diversity.
We hope to see this scheme going ahead in spring/early summer next year so watch this space for further developments.
We are currently running an appeal to raise funds for the Allt Phocaichain scheme, and we invite you to make an online donation, using our secure server, towards this.
Funding the Forest
Sponsor one of our Species Profiles!
We often get good feedback on our Species Profiles, such as the Tooth Fungi one which accompanies this magazine. The profiles vary each time, so that a range of different parts of the Caledonian Forest ecosystem (ie, trees, plants, birds, insects, animals, etc) are featured on a regular basis. Well, we had some nice feedback recently from Ruth May, a volunteer from Germany. She liked our Species Profiles so much that she offered to sponsor one - she will fund the cost of the Juniper profile next spring!
We hope that other members may be inspired by Ruth's example, so here's some of the Species Profiles planned for the near future: Red squirrel, Twinflower, Oak, Osprey, Pearl-bordered fritillary (a butterfly), Heather and Wild cat.
Alternatively, if you have a favourite Caledonian Forest species that you'd like to see a profile of, please let us know - we would, of course, bring any sponsored Species Profile up to the front of the queue for printing!
To give you an idea of what sponsorship would amount to, the costs of our last profile (on the crested tit) were:
These are external costs. In addition to this, there is the research time and writing by Alan. This can take one to two days and is hard to put an average cost on, but a reasonable estimate is £100. So, you could sponsor purely external costs of £286 or the whole thing at a total cost of £386.
Happy Anniversary Hawco!
I'm delighted to report that Volkswagen main dealers, Hawco of Inverness, are celebrating their 50th Anniversary by funding the planting of a tree through Trees for Life for every new car ordered between the beginning of October and the end of December. This will translate into a donation of several thousand pounds to us.
Managing Director, John Hawco, said "There's no point in denying the detrimental effect of cars on the environment, but as a company we've been keen to do what we can to protect as much of it as possible. Donating new tree life to such an important forestry regeneration project in the North of Scotland seems like a perfect way of celebrating our Golden Anniversary."
Our Plant a Tree scheme, of course, not only applies to personal gifts. Is this something that your company might be interested in? Dedicate a tree to each customer between now and Christmas - or beyond? Or plant a tree for each order over a certain value, quantity, etc. All you would need to do is supply us with a client name and address list - we will send out a dedicated Tree Certificate, plant the tree and supply a map reference of the planting. You would be helping the Forest and your company image - and giving your customers a worthwhile gift. Can you talk your marketing people into it?
Caledonian Forest watercolours
Joan Fairhurst, our focaliser extraordinaire and Sponsored Walk organiser, is also a very accomplished artist. She sometimes takes time off between Conservation Holidays and relaxes by painting beautiful watercolour pictures of the Highlands. Now, Joan has very kindly allowed us to use these paintings to produce high quality art prints for sale, personally signed by her.
The paintings feature forest landscapes in Glen Affric and other sites where Trees for Life is working, and they will bring back fond memories for those of you who have been on Conservation Holidays or who know the featured areas. Why not treat yourself to one - or a set for Christmas! For details of how to order the prints, please see the Caledonian Forest watercolours page in the Merchandise section of our web site.
Coming soon - the Earth Restoration Service!
The establishment of an Earth Restoration Service (ERS), one of the key goals of the Restoring the Earth project, took an important step closer to actualisation at the beginning of October. The vision for the ERS is to facilitate and enable volunteers to work on ecological restoration projects around the world, and to establish an international database of such projects. Peter Phelps, one of the participants in last year's Restore the Earth! conference at Findhorn, has been inspired to turn the ERS vision into reality, and I met with him and Andreas Kornevall, the founder of Working Abroad, a web-based organisation which facilitates volunteers working on positive projects around the world, to help develop the project.
The outcome of the meeting was a commitment to get an initial, basic version of the ERS operational within the next two months. Peter is funding the development of an ERS web site, while Andreas will utilise his existing contacts and skills to set up pilot schemes with a couple of restoration projects, to provide them with volunteers. My own contribution will take the form of writing up the ethos and principles of restoration which will guide the ERS in its work, and in finding restoration projects to add to the database. For the latter, we will shortly be taking on someone on a short term contract to do the necessary research, using a donation which we have recently, and very gratefully, received from the Two Mules Housing Co-op in England.
Once there is a simple version of the ERS in operation, we will be seeking funding to expand and develop its work, and this should result in the successful implementation of one of the main elements of the Restoring the Earth project. We'll have further news of this exciting development in our next magazine.
Meanwhile, during a visit to the Galapagos Islands in July, I was delighted to discover that one of the Restoring the Earth project's other ideas has already been put into practice and is nearing completion, completely independent of us! As part of the visionary 'future history' scenario I wrote some years ago, outlining what a Century of Restoring the Earth could look like, I included the following target, with a nominal date of 2004:
"With the aid of an international military task force, specially trained in minimal impact environmental field work, feral goats are eradicated from Santiago Island in the Galapagos Islands - the 50,000 goats there had been seriously affecting the island's unique vegetation and endangering the survival prospects of its giant tortoises."
In fact, as this edition of Caledonia Wild! goes to press, a project to eradicate the goats on Santiago is nearing completion, and the island should soon be declared goat-free. The project has been carried out by local national park staff, and the focus of their efforts is now moving to the larger island of Isabella, where they will be aided by a specialist group of goat hunters from New Zealand. For anyone who is interested, further information about this project is available on the Galapagos Conservation Trust web site.
Alan Watson Featherstone
See Caledonia Wild! magazines, for excerpts from other editions.
Published: 18 December 2003
Last updated: 25 August 2010