During the spring of 2013, Scottish Native Woods planted native Highland Perthshire aspen trees in a series of projects across the area, to highlight our Aspen 2020 Project, illustrate what various functions we provide and what our links with these various projects are. The trees were all grown at Edinburgh Zoo after local collection, with funding provided primarily through the Tayside Biodiversity Partnership.

The oldest of the various projects is the Loch Garry Tree Project. It is modest in scale, but very significant indeed in the recent history of native woodland management and awareness in Scotland.

2013 is the twenty fifth anniversary of the founding of the Loch Garry Tree Group. Loch Garry sits right up near the catchment boundary between Tayside and Speyside, and since 1974 had been the site for voluntary efforts by a few folk to establish woodland for the benefit of trout and arctic charr. The idea behind this is that leaves shed from the trees fall into the loch and provide food for the invertebrate prey of the fish.

Long Ago

It is difficult to believe now, but at that time, many people questioned if native Scottish trees would grow at such an altitude and on such soils. The work of the group did not fall into the category of either forestry or conservation and many were sceptical as to the outcome.

The number of folk involved grew, and in 1986, the Loch Garry Tree Group was formed, constituted as a charity, and is now able to access funds for taking their vision forwards. They had strong links with the Scottish Community Woods Campaign from which Scottish Native Woods was born in 1993. Members of the Loch Garry Tree Group were among our founding trustees.

Trial and Error

Initial results were very variable, but over the years the experience gained has led to some very successful patches of woodland. If you go to Loch Garry today, you will see a series of fenced deer/sheep exclosures along the northern and southern shores.

Initially a wide variety of trees was grown, not all native species. The policy now is to plant only native species. The benefits can be seen in the flocks of bullfinch and occasional Woodcock in the exclosures in winter and the singing Willow warblers in summer. The Wood anemone now flower in profusion and Poplar hawk moth caterpillars can be found feeding on the willows.

Progress On A Wider Scale

In the 25 years since the founding of the LGTG, native woodland management has become a more mainstream forestry activity. Many estates and sizeable farms in Perthshire now have a native woodland management scheme of one type or another.

Under the Scottish Forestry Strategy of 2008, there was a target for 25% of the Scottish woodland resource being of native species. In 2012, 65% of the woodland area established under the Scottish Rural Development Programme was of native species, and a further 20% was with mixed native and conifer species. Some people in “commercial” forestry suggest the pendulum has swung too far in favour of native species, but these levels of planting are required to diversify and extend our overall woodland resource.

All Different Today

In 1986, the case for native species still had to be won. In 2013, we no

longer need to lobby and make the case for native species. Landowners and local communities can see the benefits, and many are willing to back their judgement by committing both land and resources for native woodlands. There is more funding available than ever before.

Unlike dense conifer plantations, native woods are capable of hosting a whole spectrum of other activities from which people can benefit, and timber production has been shown to be significant at a local level as well. As native woodland advisors, we no longer need to make the arguments why. Our focus is now on implementation and developing specific functions within the overall picture.

In all this progress, Loch Garry was undoubtedly an important pioneering step along the way. We are very pleased to donate Highland Perthshire and Speyside clones of aspen to the Loch Garry Tree Group on its 25th anniversary.

Loch Garry Tree Group chairman Peter Collen planting aspen

 

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