I apologise for the hiatus in blog writing. The past few months have indeed been busy here as you surely know, and I have never been quick to choose computer work over messing about in the woods. Nevertheless, I had to write a short piece to announce that I am leaving. It has been a great couple of years as the Community Forest Manager of Gillies Hill. It has been both lots of fun and very challenging. The time has come for me to move on, though I have every confidence that this marks only the beginning of a long and exciting evolution for the community woodland.
Things are in motion now that are very promising and I’m sure will lead to surprising and unexpected things as the Community Development Trust puts plans into action. The Community Woodland project will only ever work if the community themselves are actively involved. Don’t forget the simple fact that you can always get stuck in and help bring the shared vision of a thriving, biodiverse, working woodland to fruition.
The big opportunity that lies around the corner is of course the regeneration of the area of the SPHN. This area is, at the time of writing, still being cleared of larch trees. What is left is a sizable area of forest floor now exposed to the sun. This represents a huge opportunity to diversify the structure and composition of the tree community which will surely bring a new lease of life to the place. None of us wanted it to be like this, but I’m proud of the way the Trust has faced adversity and I feel very confident about the next chapter. This is a real opportunity to lay the basis of a new woodland tree community. Preparing the site and protecting the new trees from deer will be logistics to figure out, but eventually the woodland will be a richer place.
Similarly, the ongoing rhododendron clearing work has seen enormous progress over the last 18 months, with the Camphill Conservation Crew joining the fray as well as our dedicated locals. This will truly be a long-term endeavor. To completely beat back this enemy, herbicide will need to be applied to the stumps after cutting, and this has so far been a missing piece of the puzzle. I am really looking forward to seeing the castle pond bloom with life, as indeed the other ponds that we have in the community woodland. The rhododendron represents the biggest obstacle to long-term health of the woodland.
During my time I was never able to really get the firewood operation going. The wood yard and the firewood shed remain immaterial ideals at the time I take my leave. However, the potential here is more appealing than ever. With many cubic metres of hardwood from recent felling works in the walled garden and along the residential boundary, as well as areas of the woodland primed for coppicing, there will be no shortage of material to cut, split and season for all wood-burning locals. A key component of this plan is having a means to move the timber around the wood to the yard. Although we have a horse logger on the contact list, relationships with others who can provide this service will be necessary. As we have seen from the impact of the large forwarder carrying out the SPHN harvesting, suitably low-impact machinery is the way to go. Having volunteers suitably trained in the art of woodcutting is something I am very pleased to say is now rolling! If you are a keen burner of firewood to heat your home, be sure to tune in for the formation of a firewood club. One day, this club will meet regularly to harvest and process firewood, as well as other practical woodland management works, and share in the fruits of our labours. By volunteering in the community woodland in this way in exchange for firewood you can help bring life to the woodland and ensure your firewood is as ecologically friendly as possible.
Walking and mountain biking, being vital aspects of the community woodland that people enjoy, should not be neglected. I was always quite enamored by the organic nature of the paths and trails in the wood. True community expression. It is very pleasing to be able to empower members of the community to take this aspect forward – although as we have seen with our vandalised mountain bike signs, there is a balance to be had between organic and organised.
One thing that gives me enormous hope for the future of the community woodland is the work of the Cambusbarron Village Nursery in connecting the little people with the wonders of the woods. The future relationship of Cambusbarron and it’s woodland is being laid down. How inspiring to imagine a community of people who care for their woodland and who grow up with the bustling wildlife and bonny flowers growing alongside the old veteran trees and the profusion of saplings. A culture of wood cutting, wood working and an appreciation of the long term perspective of a woodland and all it does for us.
During my time here I have been very fortunate to get to know some excellent and admirable folk. There are far too many to name in entirety, but I would like to thank Angus and Owain for leading the charge against the purple menace as well as Mark and Gerrard for their hard graft, cheerful in all weathers! Tom McBain has been a companion and dependable team-mate, an aficionado of wood-cutting and a grounding presence. Richard Blore shows up with big tools and makes wonders happen, always with an eye on the bigger picture and the long term. Thank you for your advice and encouragement. I would like to thank my wayward apprentice Kay, who after a flurry of enthusiastic assistance soon realised she could learn significantly more from people who actually knew what they were doing 😉 I will be interested to see where your work takes you. Andy, thanks for shining a light on a hidden aquatic world and helping to champion the small things that often go unseen.
Jane, Lynda and all the wee folk of the CVN have brought boundless joy to the community woodland and provided so much kindness and warmth. Thank you for making me feel part of the crew! And Helen, thanks so much for repairing me chainsaw troos! You couldn’t have nicer neighbours than John and Bernie. Thanks for always making me feel welcome in the wood. Thanks to Richard Norman for keeping us right and keeping level-headed.
There is an awful lot that gets done behind the scenes, and a lot of organisation that has, thankfully, been performed by far more capable persons than myself! Ann, thank you for steadily working through all manner of admin and emails and communication. You have been in many ways an insight into life of the village and I honestly don’t know how you manage everything you do. Lastly, I would like to thank Jennifer who took on the heroic task of being my manager. It’s been an honor to work with you. Thanks for putting up with me!
Cheers for now,
April 4th 2022