Field Notes: Establishing Skye's newest woodland
Skye Conservation Officer Cathryn Baillie reports on completing a 40,000 tree planting project at Strathaird and the importance of clearing invasive species to give the new woodland and peatland the best chance.
This winter has seen significant progress with our long term forest plan for an area of around 300 hectares of the Strathaird peninsula on Skye. Our goal is to re-establish natural ecosystems by transforming the various blocks of conifer plantation back to native woodland, or peatland, through a variety of techniques.
The recent work to plant 40,000 native broadleaved trees in an area known as Keppoch, was funded by a mixture of private donations - including through our Wild Woods Appeal and the Scottish Forestry’s Woodland Grant Scheme.
Keppoch (pictured below) was planted with conifers in the 1960s and - due to the lack of management and the precarious nature of the mature trees - it was decided that this particular block would be clear felled and re stocked with native broadleaves.
^ Removing empty bags from Keppoch.
The felling and extraction of the timber took place in 2017/18 and, after erecting a deer fence and preparing the ground, we finally started planting in September 2021. Trees for Life were chosen as contractors to undertake the work, supplying and planting the local mixture of native trees.
^ Remains of the Keppoch clearance village.
The footprint of the woodland was restructured slightly to make the most of the ground conditions and protect and enhance the archaeology of the area which includes a substantial village cleared in the late 1800s.
We have also hosted several groups of volunteers over the last year who have been helping us to clear invasive species (prickly heath, fuscia, cotoneaster and rhododendron) from our re-establishing woodlands.
^ Volunteers also helped remove regenerating Sitka spruce from our recently restored peatland site below Bla Bheinn.
This work is ongoing, and we rely on volunteers to help us to manage invasive species in our woodlands, if it is something you would like to contribute to then please do get in touch.