Mar 202014
Pine Marten. © Laurie Campbell

Pine Marten. © Laurie Campbell

With thanks to Richard Bunting.

With concerns over the state of many Scottish woodlands, and fears for the long-term survival of iconic species including red squirrel, pine marten and capercaillie, the  conservation charity Trees for Life is marking its 25th anniversary this year with a significant expansion of its forest restoration work across the Highlands, and with new projects focusing on the recovery of endangered species.
Trees for Life is now extending the geographical range of its forest restoration activity, from its previous project area of 1,000 square miles west of Inverness and Loch Ness, and is exploring opportunities to restore neglected and derelict Caledonian pinewoods in other parts of Scotland.

At the same time, the charity is developing a wider range of ecological initiatives to conserve forest species.

New projects will deliver practical field research, habitat assessments and species relocations to aid the conservation of key species such as pine marten, red squirrel and wood ants.

Trees for Life’s Executive Director Alan Watson Featherstone commented.

“Without urgent action, key parts of Scotland’s ancient Caledonian Forest could be lost forever, and forest-dependent wildlife such as the Scottish wildcat and capercaillie could become extinct in the UK,”

 “As we celebrate 25 years of pioneering conservation action, including the planting of more than a million trees by our volunteers, and the creation of 10,000 acres of new Caledonian Forest, we aim to increase the impact and scale of our work. We want to ensure that our children and grandchildren also have the opportunity to enjoy Scotland’s wild landscapes and its rare and spectacular wildlife.”

Less than half, 46 percent, of Scotland’s native woodlands are in “satisfactory condition for biodiversity” and much must be done to reverse centuries of damage, according to Scotland’s first complete survey of these important habitats, published by Forestry Commission Scotland last month. The report found that natural regeneration of native pinewoods is scarce.

Following a long history of deforestation, the Caledonian Forest reached a critical point some 200 years ago, with too few remaining trees and too many deer eating seedlings – leaving ‘geriatric’ forests of old trees. Today, only a fraction of the former forest survives, with 35 isolated remnants of native pinewoods.

The need for concerted conservation action, and the lack of young trees to replace mature specimens when lost, is also being exacerbated by the threats posed by climate change and extreme weather, and the risk of disease affecting the Scots pine, which forms the forest ecosystem’s ‘backbone’ and on which many species depend.

“We want people to get involved through volunteering or financial support, to help restore Scotland’s threatened habitats and species. Wildlife tourism generates millions of pounds every year, so bringing new life to impoverished woodlands and barren glens can bring economic as well as environmental benefits,” said Alan Watson Featherstone.

The charity’s plans for 2014 include an ambitious project at Trees for Life’s flagship Dundreggan Conservation Estate, a biodiversity hotspot in Glenmoriston near Loch Ness. They paln to convert a 300-hectare commercial plantation of non-native trees planted by a previous owner back to native woodland. This will involve the felling of the alien conifers and a pioneering mire restoration scheme, funded by a grant from Scottish Natural Heritage. The whole project will take over 10 years to complete.

Alan Featherstone Watson TFL 176 featDundreggan is also home to one of Scotland’s greatest concentrations of the nationally scarce dwarf birch, Betula nana.

An area will be fenced off for restoration of these ‘wee trees’, as part of a broader plan to create a woodland link between Glen Affric and Glenmoriston, and to expand this habitat for species including black grouse, ptarmigan and golden plover.

A programme of research on forest ecology will also be carried out at Dundreggan, and the estate will host a 25th anniversary open weekend on 24th – 25th May.

Meanwhile, a new tree planting project will begin in a Caledonian pinewood remnant at Culligran in Glen Strathfarrar in the autumn.

Trees for Life has pledged to establish one million more trees by planting and natural regeneration by 2018, creating expanded habitats for wildlife including strawberry spider, wood ants, red squirrels, rare sawflies and ospreys. Over the past year, the charity has expanded its volunteer Conservation Weeks and Conservation Days, offering more opportunities for people to gain conservation experience.

Trees for Life’s story began in 1986 when Alan Watson Featherstone made a commitment to an environmental conference at Findhorn to launch a Caledonian Forest restoration project. Practical activity began in June 1989, with tree guards used to protect Scots pine seedlings in Glen Cannich from being eaten by deer. In 1991, volunteers began planting some of the first new trees to grow in the forest for 200 years.

Trees for Life has grown into an award-winning, leading conservation volunteering charity, with a dedicated staff team and thousands of supporters and volunteers. Wildlife film maker Gordon Buchanan planted the charity’s millionth tree at Dundreggan in 2012, and Trees for Life played a key role in the successful campaign for the Scottish Parliament to name the Scots pine as the country’s national tree.

People can support Trees for Life by becoming a member, carrying out conservation action, sponsoring trees for special occasions or sponsoring an acre of native forest. See

Trees for Life’s awards include UK Conservation Project of the Year, Millennium Marque, Top 10 Conservation Holidays worldwide, Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Environment Award (2012) and RSPB Nature of Scotland – Outstanding Contribution to Nature Award (2013).

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Aug 152013

By Jill Austin.

As I was walking past the old Summerhill Academy site on the Lang Stracht last Thursday night I noticed an amazing open-air gallery adorning the fencing.

It stretched all the way from the bus stop round the corner and down the lane to Gairsay Drive.

There were at least 20 works of art- ranging from 10” square to 5’ square!

They were composed in varying media from spray paint to fine pen-work to collage.

Unfortunately, the evening light was poor.

Therefore the quality of these photographs don’t do the artwork justice.

( Click on the images to enlarge. )

There was also a wee garden further down Gairsay Drive planted in shopping baskets.  [Photo- Little Garden2]

Two of the arts contained something of a manifesto and the name of the group who had installed the gallery.

Intrigued, I investigated this group and managed to get a hold of them by email. They sent me the following statement:


1.The Creation

An open-air gallery and garden at the old SummerhilAcademy on the Lang Stracht.  A place once of education, a place once for community.

2. The Aim

To highlight with beauty the ugly mess that has been left by the supermarket wars of the 21st Century.

3. The Reasoning 

Morrisons have created a pile of rubble taller than the houses whose view it blights.

“This is because Tesco objected to their plans then throw up a supermarket on the site they had left unused for decades as soon as Morrisons acquired the Summerhill site. Tesco must think the people of Summerhill are only worth building a shop for to stop another chain from making profit.

The council may have given Morrisons the green light now, but will they replace the rubble with a store?

No profit in competing with Tesco next door. No profit in cleaning up their mess.

A working class area  – No local residents hold shares – no local residents hold sway – no local residents are rich and with power.

Supermarkets buy land and leave it unused to avoid tax.

Around 40 million square feet of land is owned by supermarkets. 

The vast majority of it will never be built upon.

Beneath the pavement, the beach!

We encourage people to reclaim their city, reclaim their spaces and make the ugly beautiful.

Fences are for climbing – borders are for crossing – the world is ours but only of we make it so, yes?”

MUSTA BLOKKI are an international incubationist fine ART bloc.

Their previous works include the 2011 installation “Wood”.

Constructed in bronze and granite (effect) it was erected in Union Terrace Gardens, which at the time were under threat. 

I would highly recommend a visit to this unusual gallery, but alas, it is no longer there.

Instead, I hope Aberdeen Voice readers can at least enjoy this pictorial record.

Here is a bit more about the group’s ethos – be inspired!


Art is accessible and free
Art can be created by anyone
Public space is contaminated by the corporate debris of the 21st century
Public space should be reclaimed – Beneath the pavement, the beach!
We resist corporate domination and social apathy
We commit to shaping something original despite our culture’s fascination with the disposable
We commit to shaping something original from society’s superficial consumer culture
If we cannot enjoy the process, we cannot enjoy the result

If we cannot dance it is not our revolution

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Aug 092013

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

Tally Ho!  I hope everyone is enjoying a vibrant, dynamic, smart successful summer with lashings of connectivity.  Tartan Day in Aberdeen was good fun, and once again the gardens were used to good effect, even if they are a dangerous, dreary, dark hole filled with criminals.

There was a re-enactment of a highwayman’s trial in the Tollbooth; suffice it to say the accused didn’t get a lesser sentence for pleading guilty, his difficult childhood or drunkenness weren’t hauled up as reasons for leniency, and the sentence wasn’t a few hours of community service.

Old Susannah’s also been to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which rightfully attracts talent and tourists from around the world. 

For the next few weeks Edinburgh’s intriguing private spaces, as well as public areas, will be given over to performances, workshops, a book festival, art/craft, food and drink.

I enjoyed a lovely meal in the Signet Library, which is transformed annually into the Pommery Champagne bar.  The public gets to see inside amazing venues like this, enjoy them for social occasions, and at the same time gets to appreciate the spaces Edinburgh has to offer.  Would that we could do that here, with our empty shops and interesting spaces.

The atmosphere is friendly; there is something for everyone, and people come from around the world. My hotel, the Caledonian Waldorf couldn’t have been more elegant or more service-orientated; a minor omission of an ingredient in a meal was more than made up for by complimentary dessert wine.

While I don’t often get to live it up, when I do so in Edinburgh, the Pommery and the Waldorf – and the local BrewDog bar for a bottle of new Electric India – are the places to be.  Sometimes you just need a little luxury.

It will be hard to write any form of satire this week that would be able to hold its own against the Salmond – vs – Aberdeen Council / Labour prose currently flying around town.  In brief, Salmond decided to spontaneously issue invitations to the press to witness his spontaneous visit to local Bramble Brae elementary school, coincidentally where a by-election was taking place.

I’m sure anyone who wants to wander into a school will be just as welcome

He, his team and the press thoughtfully bypassed the head teacher and Aberdeen’s Chief Executive, Valerie Watts, thus saving them paperwork and worry; they just went into the school, into the class and had a lovely visit, posing for photos.

For some reason, Valerie Watt took exception to this school visit, thinking that someone should have asked her first (she probably just wanted to get her photo taken with Alex).  She wrote to Salmond, and from there things got a wee bit messy, with accusations of ‘kamikaze’ councils and general name calling coming into it from Alex’s side.  Sexism got a look in as well with men only and women only golf clubs adding fuel to the fire.

Barney Crockett and Salmond have locked horns.  Watts should have realised that the First Minister can do whatever he feels like doing without checking with anyone; this is perfectly acceptable, and I’m sure anyone who wants to wander into a school will be just as welcome.  Clearly if other by-election candidates had been creative, they could have done the same.

Rhonda Reekie of the Greens should have marched into a school for a press call; Willie Young could have found a class full of students, rounded up their parents and the press for some handshaking, and none of the pro-SNP faction would have found anything amiss I’m certain. (What the class teacher thought of this visit and if/how they dealt with it would be nice to know).

Bramblegate reminds me of a lovely pro-granite web visit some school children had back in the day just before that referendum, which also went down well with parents.

Anyway, Alex can go into schools for press calls.  In contrast, it is very wrong for Councillor Martin Ford to speak to the BBC as a councillor while on Aberdeenshire Council premises. Word is that the Shire’s Chief Executive is still fuming post Panorama, and straining at the leash to give Ford a dressing down.

No answer is forthcoming yet to my email to Chief Mackenzie about where such a rule is written down, how many other councillors ask for permission for such meetings, and whether Mackenzie would then have an undemocratic power to stop such interviews/press calls as didn’t suit his purposes.  Thankfully, Mackinitupashegoesalong makes certain that all councillors follow the code of conduct.

surely no councillor could possibly owe us an explanation

He pointed this out in his letter to the Petitions Committee, saying how unnecessary any public inquiry into the Trump debacle would be.

Quite right too.  No doubt should any of the Shire’s councillors be found wanting in terms of obeying the code, they will be dealt with accordingly.  But surely no councillor could possibly owe us an explanation for his or her conduct – other than Ford of course.

All these arguments are splashing around the Press and Journal, which has given them another occasion to get comment from UK politics’ most heavy hitters.

Only a month ago they managed to find a window of opportunity in Kate Dean’s diary to do a three page spread, so we could benefit from her words of wisdom over the failure to get the web built (which ‘we will all regret’; ‘we’ll all remember where we were when the web got kicked into touch’, etc. etc.).  Now her little dog Toto, aka Kevin Stewart, has given a few words on the Alex Salmond-Barney Crocket-Valerie Watts tag team event.

Where does the P&J get these incisive commentators from?  Additionally, another City Council ex, John Stewart, now in Manchester running a parade or something, says “I’m so glad to be out of it now”, demonstrating his gladness by offering to comment from the sidelines in order to snipe at Crockett.  Many of us thought he was ‘out of it’ in one sense or another from time to time when he was still here.

All this fighting talk makes me think some related definitions are required, so without any further hesitation, here are some terms for this week’s definitions.

Circular Argument: (compound English Noun) An argument that is flawed by containing, as fact, the same thing it is attempting to prove, e.g. “The story I read in the Press & Journal is true because I read it in the Press & Journal.”

There are no circular arguments to be found in our part of the world, thank goodness.  But sometimes I wonder – if MEMAG didn’t exist, would it be necessary to invent it?

MEMAG wasn’t needed at all really; it wasn’t like Trump was going to go against the approved plan or do anything possibly detrimental to our environment.

MEMAG has authority to prevent damaging activities

But thankfully, MEMAG was put under the Trump organisation’s financial control.  Arguably, MEMAG was invented to keep the Trump organisation in check.

By holding the purse strings, by not showing up for meetings, and by in effect pulling the plug on MEMAG, the Trump Organisation was in control of several levels of the organisation set up to keep it under control.

The shire council’s Formartine Committee once had a report which read:-

“If permission is granted a section 75 agreement is imposed to ensure that the impact on the nature conservation interest is minimised and that no hard engineering works are involved in stabilising the sand dome and dune system and that MEMAG has authority to prevent damaging activities, that a rigorous landscape evaluation is undertaken and that no commitment is given to either the height of the hotel and holiday apartments or the eventual number of houses for sale, that a minimum of 40% of the energy requirement for the hotel, holiday apartments and homes is generated on site using renewable energy  technologies and that the employment benefits are derived locally with preference being given to those living within the North East and those attending the proposed university course.”

In the end, the now evaporated MEMAG group was about as effective in its remit as Father Ted was when holding up placards reading ‘down with this sort of thing’ and ‘careful now’

Old Susannah will find it hard to come up with any circular arguments; but in the mean time I leave you with this thought:  in order to prevent the Trump organization committing damaging activities, the Trump organization was in charge of an organisation called MEMAG which was in charge of preventing the Trump organisation committing damaging activities.

What could be simpler?


Aberdeenshire Council might be a little confused.  They’ve twice written to me to say :-

“Aberdeenshire Council have not authorised any restrictions on Menie Estate in relation to statutory access rights afforded under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.” (email to me of 7 August 2013).

Result!  Everything’s fine!  I’ll have to make sure to tell the Menie residents and visitors this.

However, the Shire’s outdoor access person also wrote to me on 26 March 2013:-

“As noted above we are aware of a number of concerns relating to outdoor access at Menie and are currently working to resolve the issues. It is my preference to utilise my time achieving the formal concerns already raised; I suspect these concerns are shared by the residents you note in your email. 

“As I hope you will appreciate the provision of access rights is not always clear and straight forward as much as we will continue to seek acceptable access rights for the residents of Menie and general visitors we also have to consider and balance the rights of the landowner to undertake their business and manage their land. 

“On a positive note I would say that the land managers at Menie have indicated they are keen to resolve concerns over public access and as such we are working towards a solution that provides a satisfactory level of access whilst taking into account the concerns of the land manager and their land management activities.”

On the one hand, the council didn’t authorise any restrictions relating to access rights at the Trump estate.  On the other hand, they are keen to resolve concerns over public access and want to provide a satisfactory level of access while taking in Trump’s concerns.

So – no restrictions are allowed, but the restrictions that do exist are being looked into, in other words. I trust that this shining example of clarity demonstrates that the council are completely clear, everything’s fine, and there is no need for a public inquiry.

Pre-emptive Strike: (compound English noun) to start an altercation or conflict in order to prevent being attacked.

The best defence is a good offence, and one of the high visibility adherents to this strategy is Alex Salmond. You might say he is very offensive at times.   But he is rather good at well-timed pre-emptive strikes.

Trouble over wining and dining wealthy American planning applicants?  Outcry at a pre-planned ‘impromptu’ visit to a school where your party is fighting a by election?  Scandal over legal advice taken over EU membership post independence?  Draw attention away from tiresome  trivial problems by launching an attack of your own.

After Watts wrote to Salmond, he hurled in a grenade or two, calling our council ‘a kamikaze council’ for refusing to build his pal Ian Wood’s dream web.  If Salmond says we’re looking disreputable, we should definitely take his expert word on the subject, which he knows quite a bit about.  So the name-calling began, with Salmond using one of his favourite words ‘ludicrous’ in response to the Watts’ letter.

Old Susannah seems to remember that a Kamikaze pilot was basically a suicide bomber wishing to take out as many of the enemy as possible.  I don’t seem to be following Salmond’s use of the word in the context of Aberdeen City not having a web.

The ensuing name-calling and Crockett’s defence of his one-year old council are dominating the printed press.  Little issues like Alex’s own failings are being edged out of the limelight by this little contretemps.  So, what, if anything, might Alex like to deflect our attention from?

Well, there was that lovely visit to Bramble Brae.  Meeting Alex might have swayed people to cast their vote for him, and naturally, no other candidate was given equal time.

I guess the chance to meet Alex drove such concerns away

It might be worth asking which reporters were invited, and if they were more than just people following any story leads blindly and printing any press releases they get without question – whether any recipients to the SNP invitation contacted the opposition candidates to share this event’s details with them.

If, say, the BNP decided to drop in on the local primary children and their parents, and invited members of the press to join them on such a happy occasion, you might be forgiven for thinking that the reporter receiving such an invite might see the story differently, get in touch with the school/Watts and ask what was going on.   But I guess the chance to meet Alex drove such concerns away.

Getting back to issues which Alex might be a bit coy about, which his attack might overshadow, we do have the smashing idea of setting up a national body to oversee every child.  Not just children from broken homes, children with special needs, or children in need of supervision who have had brushes with the law – every child.

Some people are actually critical of this great scheme, and have foolish questions about cost, legality, human rights, potential for abuse and so on.  Better send the ‘Kamikaze’ attack out first.

We still don’t know how Europe would deal with the nascent Scotland; and if Alex has legal advice, we’re not going to get to see it anytime soon.  Currency, passport, border control, military issues are not thrashed out yet, and whatever side of the referendum debate you’re on,  you should be happy to just trust the government about all these minor details – what could go wrong?

Arguably, these are enough definitions for now.  Tally Ho!

PS – it’s not too late to get involved in the Butterfly and Moth count – which is pretty important considering all the green space we’re concreting over or clearing.  Details here –

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May 172013

The North East countryside is littered with heritage in the form of architecture from the near and distant past. There are Roman marching camps, castles galore and of course a multitude of Pictish circles and standing stones. Duncan Harley writes.

Most of these structures were built for a purpose.  Each night the while on the march the Roman army constructed a temporary camp, complete with rampart and ditch, as a defence against attack while in hostile territory.
Grampian had many of these structures and examples can be still seen at Durno, Kintore and Auchinhove.

The Castles and big houses were in many cases also defensive structures but in more recent history they became potent symbols of the wealth that the area generated through agriculture and trade.  Debate of course continues over the true purpose of the standing stones and stone circles.

Places of worship and mystical ceremony say some.  Others, including myself, wonder if many of the circles were simply settlements.  After all, folk in those distant times needed a place to live.

Then of course there are the follies.

There are various definitions describing follies ranging from, “a building with no practical use whatsoever,” to the rather grand sounding description as, “a building constructed primarily for decoration, but either suggesting by its appearance some other purpose, or merely so extravagant that it transcends the normal range of garden ornaments or other class of building to which it belongs.”

Personally I like the definition used by RCAMS (The Royal Commission for Ancient Monuments Scotland) which says simply and clearly, “a structure with little or no practical purpose, often found in 18th century landscaped gardens and taking many forms including towers, castles, temples, cairns and hermit’s cells”.

Towers and temples seem to be the most common types of folly, perhaps due to their visual impact both on the landscape and on the viewer who comes upon them for the first time.

However some follies, such as the Shell Hoosie in Dunnotter Woods near Stonehaven, break this rule completely.

This tiny domed building has its internal walls ( pictured top right ) decorated and completely covered with thousands of sea shells.  Built by Lady Kennedy of Dunnottar House in the early nineteenth century and restored in 1999, it has the appearance of a large beehive when seen from the outside but from inside it feels very much like a hermits cave.

Banchory of course has Scolty Tower, a 20 metre tall granite monument, built in 1842 to the memory of a General William Burnett who fought alongside Wellington in the Napoleonic Wars.

Also known as General Burnett’s Monument, there is some debate whether this tower is a true folly due to its commemorative purpose and, somewhat like McCaigs Tower above Oban, local opinion is divided as to the towers status.

Following decades of neglect it was restored in 1992 at a cost of £20k using funds raised by the Rotary Club of Banchory.

Then there is the intriguingly named Temple of Theseus, built around 1835 in the grounds of Pitfour House, Fetterangus near Mintlaw.

A real hidden gem, the building is a scaled down version of the 6th century BC Temple of Hephaestus in Athens and occupies a waterside position on the shores of Pitfour Lake.

Theseus of course was the heroic slayer of the Minotaur, a half-man, half-bull monster which lived in the Labyrinth created by Daedalus on the island of Crete.  Using nothing more than a ball of string to trace his steps and of course a trusty sword, Theseus defeated the Minotaur in an epic battle in the heart of the Labyrinth and thus saved the youth of Athens from being devoured by the evil monster.

The Temple of Theseus in Mintlaw has, as far as I am aware, no claim regarding the housing a Minotaur, however there is a basement area with a bath like structure which it is said once accommodated the late Admiral Ferguson’s alligators.  I am happy to report that the lake seems to have a healthy wildlife population and that there was no indication that alligators still lurk in the shallows on the day of my visit.

The building is in a fairly desperate state of repair however and is currently subject of a planning application which would allow the building of nine houses on the Pitfour Estate with a £900k enabling development element for restoration purposes.

According to a spokesman for Banff and Buchan planning department, the application is likely to be approved within the next few months with funding being made available for not only restoration of the temple and lake area with its associated bridges but also to improve public access.

The Pitfour Estate is well worth a visit if you are in the area although a copy the Ordnance Survey map for Fraserburgh (OS Landranger number 30) will help since the public access routes to parts of the estate are not well marked.

If you are feeling really adventurous and fancy a wee flutter, you might just want to head up to the Forestry car park at Drinnies Wood just north of Fetterangus to visit the site of the Ferguson family private racecourse.

This was complete with an Observatory Tower from which they would take tea while watching the horse racing!  The tower, built in 1845 by Admiral George Ferguson 5th Laird of alligator fame, is still in existence and is open to the public, but the racecourse has largely vanished.

There are, no doubt, many more hidden follies in the Aberdeen area.  If you know of any please get in touch.

Now where did I put my betting slip and binoculars?


Roman Camps:
Pitfour Estate:
The Shell Hoosie:
Scolty Tower Restoration:

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Mar 292013

Trees for Life’s creation of a Diamond Wood in Inverness-shire to celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 has been recognised at a Buckingham Palace reception this week (27 March), hosted by HRH The Princess Royal. With thanks to Richard Bunting.

The event recognised the creation of 60 new Diamond Woods across the UK, each at least 60 acres in size, to symbolise the Queen’s 60-year reign.

As part of this tree planting campaign, Trees for Life planted a new 60-acre Jubilee woodland of native trees at its Dundreggan Estate, to the west of Loch Ness in Glen Moriston.

Two million trees have been planted across Scotland in a range of locations during this project, which was organised by The Woodland Trust.

Princess Anne planted the Jubilee Woods project’s six millionth tree in London yesterday.

Alan Watson Featherstone, Trees for Life’s Executive Director, said:

“As part of a renewed CaledonianForest in the Highlands, our Diamond Wood at Dundreggan is a truly positive tribute to Her Majesty The Queen – one that will be enjoyed by future generations and will provide an important habitat for wildlife. The Jubilee Woods project is an inspiring example of how people can come together and make a real difference to our environment, and we’re proud to have been involved.”

Trees for Life was represented at Buckingham Palace by its Executive Director Alan Watson Featherstone; acclaimed wildlife cameraman and filmmaker Gordon Buchanan, who recently became a patron for the charity; Rosalind Grant-Robertson, who generously supported Tees for Life’s purchase of Dundreggan; and Steve Morris, Operations Manager for Dundreggan.

The conservation charity’s work at Dundreggan is part of its award-winning restoration of Scotland’s ancient CaledonianForest to a spectacular wilderness region of 1,000 square miles to the west of Loch Ness and Inverness.

Although only a fraction of the original forest survives, Trees for Life has now created almost 10,000 acres of new CaledonianForest at 45 different locations in the Highlands. It has planted more than one million trees, with a million more pledged for the next five years.

People can support Trees for Life’s work by purchasing dedicated trees to celebrate special occasions. The charity’s acclaimed volunteer Conservation Weeks and Conservation Days offer opportunities to gain practical conservation experience in spectacular surroundings. For details, see or call 0845 458 3505.

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Mar 072013

With thanks to Richard Bunting.

Biodiversity surveys in 2012 at Trees for Life’s Dundreggan Estate near Loch Ness revealed eight new species never recorded before in the United Kingdom, and brought the total number of species recorded on the forest restoration site to over 2,800, it was announced today.

New species for the UK discovered at the 10,000-acre site in Glen Moriston, Inverness-shire are a sawfly (Nematus pravus), an aphid (Cinara smolandiae), two species of aphid parasitoids (Ephedrus helleni, Praon cavariellae), three species of fungus gnats (Brevicornu parafennicum, Mycomya disa, Sceptonia longisetosa), and a species of mite (Ceratozetella thienemanni).

Another key discovery, made by Trees for Life’s Executive Director Alan Watson Featherstone, included the first record in Europe of a biting midge in the genus Atrichopogon feeding on a cranefly (Helius longirostris). Although known in the tropics, this behaviour has never been observed in Europe before.

Alan Watson Featherstone said:

“The surprisingly rich variety of life at Dundreggan highlights the vital importance of conservation work, and of protecting and enhancing habitats across the Highlands. The discoveries are not only demonstrating that the estate is a special site for biological diversity – they are also revealing that there is still much to learn about Scotland’s biodiversity.”

The 2012 surveys revealed a significant and diverse range of organisms, including sawflies, aphids, fungus gnats, slime moulds and mites. The findings, together with those of previous surveys, bring the total number of species recorded on Dundreggan to 2,815. This wealth of biodiversity includes at least 269 plants, 341 lichens, 92 birds, 20 mammals, 354 beetles, 207 moths and 125 sawflies.

A species of note discovered last year is the rare Lapland marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza traunsteinerioides subsp. francis-drucei), never found in this area of Scotland before and described by the Highland Biodiversity Recording Group as a “botanical gem”.

2012 was the third year of a sawfly study on the estate that is being carried out by a team from Liverpool Museums. The total known sawfly species recorded on Dundreggan has now reached 125. The discovery of Nematus pravus means that there are two ‘new to the UK’ sawflies feeding on the dwarf birch at Dundreggan, with a third species previously unrecorded in Britain found feeding on the downy birches on the Estate.

In another project, Steve and Sarah Burchett from PlymouthUniversity spent two weeks with a team of students, carrying out pioneering research into the biodiversity of Dundreggan’s forest canopy. This included new techniques to survey for lichens, mosses and invertebrates that live in the treetops and the upper branches of oaks, birches and Scots pines, in what is believed to be the first study of its kind in Scotland.

At least 67 priority species for conservation have now been identified on Dundreggan, which has been described as a Highlands ‘lost world’. The 2012 discoveries add to a remarkable range of rare and endangered species found on the Estate – some of which were previously unknown in Scotland, or which were feared to be extinct there.

Previous discoveries include the second-ever British record of a waxfly species; a golden horsefly (Atylotus fulvus) only seen once before in Scotland since 1923; the juniper shieldbug (Cyphostethus tristriatus), thought to be the first Highlands record; and species of spider, cranefly and dragonfly all listed in the UK’s Red Data Book of endangered species.

Other species include black grouse, pine marten, water vole, lesser butterfly orchid, lichen running spider, and small pearl-bordered butterfly. On-going research aims to establish whether the Scottish wildcat is present.

Dundreggan, purchased by Trees for Life in 2008, is also home to some of the best stands of juniper – a priority species for conservation – in the Highlands, and what may be the most extensive distribution of dwarf birch in the country.

Trees for Life is planting half a million trees on the estate as part of its award-winning restoration of the Caledonian Forest to a spectacular wilderness region of 1,000 square miles in the Highlands, to the west of Loch Ness and Inverness.

The conservation charity is also working for the return of rare woodland wildlife, plants and insects, and is conducting scientific research and education programmes. Volunteers are carrying out much of the forest restoration work. For more information, see or call 0845 458 3505.

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Jan 182013

Vital conservation work, including the growing of rare trees, by award-winning charity Trees for Life has received a welcome funding boost thanks to players of a charity lottery.  With thanks to Richard Bunting.

An award of £7,443 to Trees for Life from People’s Postcode Trust, a grant-giving charity, funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, has allowed the charity to expand and develop a tree nursery at its acclaimed Dundreggan Estate in Glen Moriston, near Loch Ness, in Inverness-shire.

Trees for Life has been able to invest in a much-needed new polytunnel, tools and equipment, increasing the nursery’s capacity to grow rare trees and plants to restore the Caledonian Forest in the Scottish Highlands.

Volunteers will carry out much of the work in the nursery, allowing them to gain new skills and experience, and to improve their health through outdoor exercise.

Trees for Life executive director Alan Watson Featherstone (pictured above) said:

“The opportunity to expand our tree nursery at a time of widespread concern about diseases from imported trees to the UK is a very positive development.

“Our new facilities will significantly increase the number of trees we can produce, and enable more volunteers to get involved in growing rare Caledonian Forest species, including dwarf birch, juniper, tea-leaved willow and twinflower.

“We would like to thank the Postcode Lottery Trust for its generous grant, which has made this possible.”

The expanded nursery will help the charity meet its target of establishing a million more trees by planting and natural regeneration within the next five years.

Trees for Life is restoring Scotland’s ancient Caledonian Forest to a spectacular wilderness region of 1,000 square miles in the Highlands to the west of Loch Ness and Inverness.

For more details, see or call 0845 458 3505.

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Jan 032013

By Bob Smith.

A didna mak ony reesolushins
At the stairt o the New Year
Jist in case some o them
Widna be kept a fear
If a hid made reesolushins
Tae show a bit o moral grit
A wid mak the extra effort
Tae stir things up a bit
Keep opposin the mannie Trump
Ma main aim iss wid be
So fae oor shores he’d bugger aff
Fae his haverins we’d be free
A’d fecht tae keep oor kwintra
Safe fae the lan grabbin rich
Chiels fa try tae mak the rules
An democracy try tae ditch
A’d stir things wi the cooncil
Tae see oor money weel spint
An nae lan in the coffers
O fowk faa mak a mint
On a far less serious note
Ma gowf a’d try tae improve
So ma handicap it wis cut
An ma swing wis in the groove
A’d try tae be aye smilin
Fin fowk an me div meet
An look upon the positives
If the Dons they div git beat
Bit ae New Year reesolushin
An on iss a’ll nae bi canny
Is tae wish ye “a the best”
Fae Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie”

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie”
Image Credit© Anna Dobos |

Aug 102012

By Bob Smith.

The warld’s noo an affa place
Is the spik ye fyles div hear
The planet itsel’s nae tae blame
Jist some fowk fa’s on’t a fear 

Oor warld’s there tae be enjoyed
It’s faar aabody’s born and bred
It keeps us aa fed an wattered
In Aiberdeen or aroon the Med 

Heich snaw capped muntins
Faar ower valleys ye can look
In clear an crystal rivers
Brave fowk can hae a dook 

There’s buttercups an ither flooers
In leys aa ower oor  sphere
Wild animals an bonnie birdies
As weel as aa kines o deer 

Noo aathing’s nae hunky dory
Aat a div ken richt weel
We hiv a puckle greedy fowk
Fa tell lees or try tae steal

Politicians and bunker chiels
They fair div tap ma list
An bliddy big business diddy men
Fa only wint tae full their kist

Tak nae heed o sic buggers
There are fowk far mair genteel
Fa dee a lot o unsung gweed
An dinna parley wi the deil

Lit’s here it for iss warld o oors
An the gweed fowk on iss planet
Ignore the Trumps an their like
Listen tae yer auld Auntie Janet

© Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2012
Image Credit: Beautiful Alps © Hwee Fuan Tey |

Jun 282012

By Bob Smith.

O Scotland ma Scotland
Iss lan o ma birth
Yer beauty astounds ma
Be it muntin or firth
Yer bonnie glens are quairt
Fair rushin are yer burns
Lazy are some rivers
Wi their twists an turns
Yer moods they can be varied
Fyles gey roch an weet
Afen saft an gintle
Like an ivver luvin geet
A mervel at yer wildlife
As fin the eagle soars
A watch the seals an wadin birds
As a dander alang yer shores
Yer winters  can be affa bleak
Grun happit wi ice an snaw
Bit in simmertime fooivver
There is a magic fit is braw
A luv life  here in Scotia
Noo lit there be nae doot
O her  beauty an her grandeur
A wull forivver spoot

 © Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2012
Image credit: HIGHLAND COW © Adrian Jones |