In towns and villages right across Scotland, Scottish Native Woods (SNW) is currently looking to establish a whole network of “Learning Woods” to provide local people, school children and community groups with places to learn to identify all our native tree species in one location.
The Aberfeldy-based environment charity anticipates that the most suitable sites will be on local authority, Forestry Commission or some sort of community land, or on local golf courses. In all situations, it will require a local community group to keep an interest in the site and maintain it going in to the future.
SNW’s Highland Perthshire Manager, Victor Clements, told Comment: “This need not be arduous. In fact, maintaining an area of trees can be much simpler and easier than maintaining an area of cut grass, reducing the overall maintenance costs of some existing amenity areas for those already managing them.”

Background
For nearly twenty years, SNW has been at the forefront of national efforts to protect and conserve Scotland’s native woodlands, to raise issues relating to their management, to encourage education and community involvement and to expand their overall area.

The Aberfeldy-based environment charity anticipates that the most suitable sites will be on local authority, Forestry Commission or some sort of community land, or on local golf courses. In all situations, it will require a local community group to keep an interest in the site and maintain it going in to the future.
SNW’s Highland Perthshire Manager, Victor Clements, told Comment: “This need not be arduous. In fact, maintaining an area of trees can be much simpler and easier than maintaining an area of cut grass, reducing the overall maintenance costs of some existing amenity areas for those already managing them.”

Background
For nearly twenty years, SNW has been at the forefront of national efforts to protect and conserve Scotland’s native woodlands, to raise issues relating to their management, to encourage education and community involvement and to expand their overall area.
It has brought over 200 sites totalling 18,000 acres of native woodland into active management throughout the country, and established well attended volunteering programmes and opportunities for schools to become involved in woodland conservation work.
“During that twenty years,” explained Victor, “native woodlands and native trees have changed from being very much a subject of minority interest to a mainstream management activity, involving virtually every significant estate in Highland Perthshire.
“Environmental education has very firmly become a key theme within the national curriculum in our schools, and many schools have small tree nurseries, are involved with the Forest Schools initiative or take part in other activities in native woodlands.”
Despite all this however, there remains little more than a superficial knowledge of our full range of both native and introduced non- native species, partly because it is difficult for schools and other organisations to find suitable locations where the full range of tree species are actually available for inspection and learning opportunities.
“Most foresters learned to recognise their tree species by observation over a period of time,” Victor continued, “seeing the different species in different situations and at different times of year, and building confidence in their identification skills in this manner.”

Demonstration
During 2012, Scottish Native Woods laid out an educational woodland area on Aberfeldy Golf Course (see planting pictured here) for the use of Breadalbane Academy and other groups to learn their tree species, and how they relate to one another.
Fifteen trees of each of 41 different species were planted in discreet blocks, with similar trees next to one another within logical groupings: small native trees; large native trees; native shrubs; native conifers and evergreens; non-native broadleaves; non-native conifers.
SNW would like to expand this concept, planting these educational woods throughout Scotland. The objective would be to provide an opportunity in every significant village and town for people to learn about native tree species in a structured manner, at a local venue.

Proposal
Victor detailed: “At each location, the trees will be planted in a single community event, for which SNW will arrange the funding and will organise and supervise. Wherever possible, local schools will be involved at each location. 15 trees will be planted at each location, each of the following species:
Small Native Tree Species - Crab Apple, Rowan, Whitebeam, Bird Cherry, Wild Cherry, Goat Willow, Aspen
Large Native Tree Species - Alder, Silver Birch, Downy Birch, Ash, Sessile Oak, English Oak, Wych Elm
Native Conifers and Evergreens - Scots Pine, Yew, Holly, Juniper
Native Shrubs - Hazel, Blackthorn, Hawthorn, Guelder Rose, Wild Rose, Elder, Eared Willow, Grey Willow.
Non Native Broadleaves - Sycamore, Norway maple, Horse Chestnut, Sweet Chestnut, Walnut, Lime, Beech, Hornbeam
Non-native Conifers - European Larch, Japanese Larch, Hybrid Larch, Sitka Spruce, Norway Spruce, Douglas Fir, Lodgepole Pine
“It is assumed that all trees will be planted at 2 metre spacing, with gaps between discreet blocks, each woodland covering 50% of an area of 0.5 ha overall at each site.
“SNW will provide interpretation boards at each site, plus identification markers at each site, funded externally from other charitable trusts. This will include the discreet identification of each species block within each of the sites.”

Outputs
The scheme would deliver:
      • Small scale projects throughout Scotland.
      • Plantings of 600 trees per site, creating 0.5 ha of new woodland at each location.
      • Provision of a long term educational resource within local communities
      • Involvement of local communities, especially school children, in conservation work at each location.
SNW would be very pleased to hear from anyone interested in this idea, even if they have not yet identified a suitable local area of land. Any interested parties should contact CLOAKING or phone him on 01887 820 392 for further information

 

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