Staff blog: Sessile oak and dog rose

Glenlude Manager Karen Purvis sums up the highlights of a busy year on the land we care for in the Scottish Borders

Tree planting at glenlude 2017 detail

Firewood

Following a successful bid to The Peoples Postcode Lottery towards the end of 2016 we were able to purchase a mobile firewood processor and install secure storage on site. After extending the track 20m and levelling off a suitable area we took delivery of a 20ft shipping container at the start of January.

This led to the construction of an adjacent firewood store made using timber felled on site and donated by local businesses bar the larch cladding which we needed to purchase. This was all then topped off with turf for camouflage – finally completed in June.

After building up stocks of processed firewood over the summer months we started selling logs in October, monies from which are fed back into the project. Sales are rising steadily thanks to our mostly local customers.

 Volunteer work parties

Weekly Thursday work parties started up in January and we’ve built up a squad of regular volunteers who turn up weekly and are invaluable in ongoing running of the project.

No two Thursdays are the same – tasks have ranged from processing firewood, surveying, nursery work, building maintenance, fence and dyke repairs, felling, digging ditches, making bridges, weeding tree tubes and so much more. These have now finished for this year with the first one for 2018 scheduled for Thursday 8 February.

We held five four-day work parties this year covering: tree planting and maintenance; fixing the paddock fence around Glenlude Farmhouse; removing a stretch of fencing for our neighbours at Glenlude House; loading a skip with old fencing materials; tending trees in the orchard, along the main ride, at Phoenix Forest and above the ponds. Many of these trees have had their mesh removed which is a milestone as they are now beyond the reach of browsing deer. The mesh has been reused for newly planted trees.

Logs have been moved and stacked on the hill using our ‘iron horse’ made by one of our regular volunteers – this has proved to be a great piece of kit as some of the logs were too heavy to move manually.

Trees

We were pretty tied up with building the firewood processor and log stores early in the year so tree planting was put on hold temporarily. Ironically conditions then proved too dry to plant trees (how often can you say that in Scotland?) so bar Phoenix Futures annual tree planting day in April very few trees were planted in the spring.

Phoenix service users along with MSP Rachel Hamilton planted 250 trees at ‘Phoenix Forest’ – an area of Glenlude that the Glasgow based rehabilitation charity have taken ownership of. Every Phoenix service user who successfully completes their programme has a tree planted in their honour – to date we have planted almost 2000 trees and groups from Phoenix visit monthly throughout the year taking care of their patch.

Slightly late in the planting season, volunteers at the four-day work party in June planted 175 trees alongside Glenlude Burn – the crab apple, downy birch and rowan were home grown in our tree nursery.

We re-visited that area in November to find June’s trees doing well and put in a further 250 trees up at the top end of the burn. The sessile oak and dog rose were home grown and other species included hazel, hawthorn and downy birch. All the previously planted trees along the burn side were checked and tended during that weekend.

Stepping back slightly to our October work party, two brash hedges were completed up the top of the hill and planted up with a mixture of 230 downy birch, rowan and eared willow that we grew ourselves in the tree nursery.

We still have more trees to plant so are hoping to take care of the remaining trees come spring time next year.

Surveys

The squirrel survey in partnership with Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels took place again in April – I’m still awaiting the results so watch this space! The breeding bird survey and marked seedlings surveys took place in May/June. This year saw two pairs of curlews successfully raising chicks to fledging on site.

We surveyed the calcareous flushes in July following a two year lull. The flushes were considerably overgrown and more difficult to find and while there were increased signs of deer activity, the vegetation was relatively untouched.

Nursery

Ongoing seed collecting, processing and sowing continued throughout the year the results of which were shown in us planting our own trees out on the site for the first time this year.

The nursery now has a new level floor after the original one had settled quite a bit and developed puddles (not good for nursery hygiene). T wo new sinks have been installed and plumbed in giving us proper facilities for processing seeds and keeping things clean and we also have a split level potting bench which makes nursery work much easier. Alba trees in East Lothian donated us a wrapping station and rolls of film so we’re now able to pack and transport our own cell grown trees efficiently around the site.

Following repeated flooding (and increasing property manager stress) a new irrigation system was installed in April – this has proved to be worth its weight in gold in terms of reliability and water efficiency. And more recently the wooden surface of the indoor and outdoor staging was replaced with mesh to allow air pruning of the cell grown trees.

Groups

Edinburgh’s George Watson College has used Glenlude a great deal this past year with groups coming regularly throughout the school year undertaking conservation work for their Duke of Edinburgh Awards. Following the success of these visits, another six months have been booked and the school is taking ownership of the deer monitoring survey.

All Saints Primary School from Airdrie returned in June for their fourth annual camping weekend. Around 70 people camped on site and were fed from a mobile pizza oven owned by two of the parents. The group removed about 700m of old, redundant fencing from the hill.

Cartmel Priory School from Cumbria returned for the second year and assisted in various tasks including relocating usable fencing materials down the hill and brashing.

The Green Team from Edinburgh continue to manage their ‘Green Team Wildwood’ up on the hill. A fourth brash hedge is well on the way to completion, the existing hedges are being reinforced and the previously planted trees are well maintained and growing well.

George Watson's College, All Saints Primary School, Cartmel Priory School, and The Green Team all used the John Muir Award to help engage their participants.

In August a group of 18 international students visited Glenlude and started rebuilding the old sheep stell along at our wild campsite - instructed by local waller Neil Moffat and his assistant Scott. By the end of their week with us, 26m of dry stane wall had been rebuilt and topped with turf. The group then relocated to Pitlochry where they undertook various tasks at Schiehallion and our neighbours Dun Coillich Community Woodland ending their week by helping out at the Rannoch Highland Games.

See some of Glenlude's amazing people and their work on our Flickr page