Posts Tagged ‘Native Woodland’

Woodland Creation!

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Image courtesy of Caroline Briggs

The last guided walk of the season was held at the start of the month – and what a great walk to finish on! It was the third of the “Roaring and Rutting” walks, this time out to Glen Langadale from Boglass. The glen was full of stags and groups of hinds, and we got to see a bit of action from younger stags challenging the “master” stag for control of his harem. The group also had some decent sightings of golden eagles, and a fantastic look at a mountain hare, almost fully moulted for the winter. Over the coming weeks I will be writing the programme for next year, so if anyone has any suggestions of walks you’d like to see included, feel free to get in touch – email me at

I’ve also started getting involved in the Eco-Group at Sir E Scott School – a small group of students who meet weekly to discuss everything “green” – from recycling and renewables to tree planting and vegetable growing – and then finding ways to spread their messages to the rest of the school. This week we had an interesting debate on food ethics.

Since the last walk, there has been a fair bit more office-based work going on, which is sometimes no bad thing considering the weather! I have been working on writing proposals for SRDP grant funding for two new native woodland planting projects in Glen Meavaig and Glen Scaladale. If successful , these two projects will create over 20ha (50 acres) of new woodland on Harris. We’ll be mimicking the very successful planting model used at the Ardvourlie woodland, which is now over 10 years old – using the topography to provide shelter from the wind – so all the trees will be nestled in behind hillocks and in dips and gulleys. Go back in time about 5000 years and large areas on Lewis and Harris will have looked similar to this.

On the subject of woodland, we have begun offering informal advice and assistance to crofters looking to plant trees on their land – advice including site selection, species choice, protection, management and grant funding, and assistance in mapping. We’re very supportive of anybody and everybody planting trees – so if you’re at all interested, please pop in for a chat.

Matt Watts, North Harris Ranger, 22 November 2012

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Roaring, rutting, hares and seed collecting!

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Yesterday was the first of this year’s “Roaring and Rutting” walks. Mark (NHT Land Manager) and I took a group of six walkers out to Glen Cravadale to see the rut; we were relieved to find the glen full of roaring stags as we came over the bealach at the top of Glen Liosaid. I have two more rutting walks to come; one to Glen Ulladail and the other to Glen Langadale.

The rut is where the males compete amongst themselves for ownership of groups of females, and defend established harems against rival males, for breeding with the oestrus females. The roaring that can be heard in the glens is the stags sizing each other up. This can lead to direct confrontations between two stags. This behavior is triggered primarily by the shortening day length, and will often last right through October.

Also this week I have been gathering in the markers we put out for the “Five Peaks Challenge” over the Mountain Festival. Yesterday I left Mark to take the walking group back down the glen, and set off up Tiorga Mor to collect the marker on the summit. On the top I caught a glimpse of a Mountain Hare – the Hare are currently moulting; this one was almost entirely white/grey. Whilst this change of coat may be beneficial on the hills of the mainland, out on Harris the limited snowfall means that they are incredibly easy to spot through most of the winter – something I’m sure the Golden Eagles are very happy about!

Last week I was out for a couple of afternoons collecting Downy Birch seed and Rowan berries. These I plan to propagate over the winter as the first stock for the planned NHT tree nursery. This involved clambering around in gulleys and on crags – the only places you find remnant native woodland on Harris are areas inaccessible to grazing. The presence of Aspen in most of these sites indicates that woodland has been there for thousands of years (as far back as the last ice-age);  due to the climate in this country, Aspen can no longer reproduce by seed, instead it perpetuates itself by regenerating from root suckers. Whenever you see an Aspen, you’re actually looking at an organism that could be up to 12,000 years old!

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A busy few months!

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This is my first contribution to the Ranger Blog since taking over the post from Robin in the summer – it’s been a busy first few months!

The guided walks have been very popular again this year. The season is slowing down now, with just three walks left before the winter. These final three are the “roaring and rutting” walks, where we’ll go out over the next few weeks to some of the best glens for seeing the spectacular red deer rut.

We had another John Muir Trust work party with us at the start of September. The volunteers were carrying out maintenance on the Hushinish to Cravadale path, and doing a spot of beach cleaning, despite almost getting blown away in a gale whilst they were camping at Hushinish.

The following week was the Harris Mountain Festival. Overall it was a huge success – all of the events were very well attended, and the weather was kind to us for the whole week. The Golden Eagle Walk attracted a record 30 people – fortunately the eagles came out to have a look as well! Aside from the walks, highlights for me were Laurie Campbell’s presentation of his photographs of North Harris, and the Ceilidh on Friday night.

Since the festival, I’ve had to spend a lot more time in the office (getting ready for the winter) – we’re currently developing plans for two new native woodland planting schemes, and I’ve also been working on grant applications to Scottish Natural Heritage and the Esmee Fairburn Foundation for the next three years of funding for the Ranger Service. Funding from these two organisations has paid the bulk of the costs of the Ranger Service for the last three years.

Next week I hope to get out to collect Downy Birch and Rowan seed for propagation over the winter, in preparation for the tree nursery the Trust hopes to set up in the near future. Watch this space!

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