Reforestation and Rural Development in Southern Scotland

Reforesting Scotland led a ‘Land Revival Tour’ taking a group of young professionals who work in land use to see some inspiring examples of reforestation and rural development throughout Scotland. Last week SNH Policy and Advice Directorate Support Officer Lynne Clark joined the group on the second leg of the tour, which was based in Moffat, in Dumfries & Galloway.

Carrifran Wildwood. (c)Lynne Clark

Carrifran Wildwood. (c)Lynne Clark

The Land Revival Tour appealed to me as I was keen to see some examples of reforesting and ecological restoration first-hand. The theme for the tour was ‘Healthy communities in a well forested land’.

Our first stop was Carrifran Wildwood. The Wildwood is a 660 hectare site in the Moffat Hills which has been reforested with the aim of “re-creating an extensive tract of mainly forested wilderness with most of the rich diversity of native species present in the area before human activities became dominant.”

The story about community engagement and fundraising behind the purchase of Carrifran is an impressive one. The Wildwood group managed to raise the required £350,000 to purchase the site and spent two years planning prior to planting the first trees on the first day of the new millennium. The achievement of the group is quite astounding and the Wildwood stands as an excellent educational resource in showcasing the possibilities of ecological restoration.

Hearing about Carrifran's beginnings from Project Officer, Hugh Chalmers. (c)Lynne Clark

Hearing about Carrifran’s beginnings from Project Officer, Hugh Chalmers. (c)Lynne Clark


Our next visit was to Moffat wigwams. The owner is a farmer who used local timber to build 6 rentable wooden cabins. He has also put in hedges and planted 12500 native trees. He focussed his efforts on making the best of the surrounding views, situating the cabins facing out towards the impressive views down the valley, taking inspiration from European ski resorts.

Next we visited Adamsholm to see river-adjacent woodland being restored as part of the Annan Water restoration project. As well as promoting citizen science projects such as kick sampling to monitor river invertebrates the project is working on restoring the woodland to improve the health and productivity of the watercourse. Despite the pouring rain our guide Peter Dreghorn managed to get us excited about the benefits of restoring the woodland!

Our final stop on day one was another Borders Forest Trust site at Corehead Farm where the aim is to demonstrate how biodiversity, ecosystem services and farming can thrive together. We were shown an impressive new outdoor learning space for local groups and schools and really expands the usability of the site.

Moffat Wigwams. (c)Lynne Clark

Moffat Wigwams. (c)Lynne Clark

That evening we discussed the issues that we had raised over the course of the day, including the wider community benefits of ecological restoration and how to strike a balance between promoting recreation and conserving the habitats and species. There were questions raised about the long term sustainability of a ‘pure’ ecological restoration project and whether there was a need for some form of income. There was also some discussion about the benefits of ‘well forested land’ for people’s mental and physical health and the increasing evidence relating to this.

The next day we learned about Woodlots at Speddoch where one forester works with horses to manage the woodland. The modest organisation (with only 5 woodlots in the whole of Scotland) have realised that the lack of skilled workers, particularly with chainsaw skills may be one of the main restraints for the expansion of Woodlots.

We then visited one of the 7stanes mountain biking sites at Forest of Ae which is run and managed by Forestry Commission Scotland. There’s a bike shop there, and staff input to the design of the trails based on customer feedback and their own experience. It’s now become the ‘go-to’ location for local bikers!

Our final visit was to Annadale Estate near Lockerbie, a private estate comprising a mixture of commercial plantations, native woodlands and open hill grazing. We discussed the benefits of mixed woodland planting mixing commercial species with native broadleaf species for more of a balance and to prevent the need for clear felling.

The newly built cabin at Corsehope Farm. (c)Lynne Clark

The newly built cabin at Corsehope Farm. (c)Lynne Clark

Overall, the trip was interesting and thought provoking. I was particularly motivated to learn how the local communities engaged with these projects and what the longer term benefits are beyond recreation. I’m looking forward to third leg of the tour when we are due to visit Kilsyth to see some further examples of reforestation and rural development.

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