West Stormont Woodland Group

West Stormont
Woodland Group

Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) SC051682

Join us today to bring Taymount Wood and Five Mile Wood into community ownership

“Exits, Entrances and Crossroads” by Margaret Lear

Is there an artist in the wood? There is, really, only one easy way into and out of Five Mile Wood - at least in October. That's from the south end on the Stanley to New Mill cottages road - currently a bit of a no man's land thanks to the dualling of the A9. Here the track is clear, broad, made for forestry vehicles - and you can even park! At the north end, there is also the old straight track I've written about before, from South Barns and beyond that, with a diversion to Bankfoot. Follow the line of this track and it will take you to Dunkeld, once a mighty ecclesiastical seat. I learned last week that from Dunkeld to the wood it's five miles - hence the name.
West Stormont Woodland Group

I wonder what happened to One, Two, Three and Four Mile Woods?

But once through the gate at the end of the straight track, the going is tricky. At this time of year, wellies are essential, thanks to the legacy of ditches, boggy ground and waterlogging that followed the felling of the trees here. When did it become the norm for forestry practice to leave such a mess? However, with care, agility and thanks to the enterprising actions of previous walkers using felled timber to ford the worst ditches, you can get to the main path that circles the wood.

Deer, birds and other animals have their own paths off into the undergrowth, but for humans, the area where trees were felled before the Commission ceased to work are becoming impenetrable. Gorse crowds thickly on either side of the track, requiring constant maintenance to keep it from meeting in the middle. Self-seeded birch, larch, Scots pine and willow are all growing well, but there are no paths between them in this baby wood. Then there are the trackside deep ditches, another legacy of forest drainage operations, not impossible to cross but very off-putting.

So walkers, joggers and cyclists stick to the circular path and leave the wood by the way they came. Someone on Trip Advisor found the wood disappointing, and the circular track through felled forest boring.

But I wonder. We undervalue landscapes that aren’t “finished” – such as newly planted gardens and self- seeded woods at the start of succession. The prettiest part of Five Mile Wood may be the winding bike- track under mature trees which shoots off from the main path near the south entrance, but the burgeoning growth of pioneer vegetation in the centre – the “gap site” as some call it – is vibrant with hidden life, resounding with the flickering flight of small birds and bubbling with amphibians and aquatic life in the ponds and ditches created for drainage.

Even the nuisance gorse is a rich nectar source for pollinators and home, each bush, to thousands of spiders and other invertebrates. It’s not what we are schooled to believe beautiful, but in terms of ecology and resilience, it is every bit as valid as ancient oak climax woodland. Not all landscapes can be measured in human terms – though the amount of carbon sequestered by rapidly-growing trees and shrubs will be enormous and far greater than that in a carefully-planned, gardenesque setting. And humans need carbon sinks as much as every other life form. People like to have choices, though. Choices about where to enter the wood – entrance points close to all the settlements that lie within walking distance. New tracks to follow, new routes to explore, the chance to come out into the sunshine at a different point from where you went in. Paths that cross, diversions, sidetracks, viewpoints. I don’t think they should be the main focus of the wood, or dominate the richness of undisturbed wildlife in the centre. There must be places that are no-go areas for humans, where nature can get on with it, and prove, as ever, that she will make a better job of it than we can.

And then, let our tracks meet and link wood to wood, as we learn to walk more, and be more in nature and less apart from it. Then we will lose our expectations of park furniture and entertainment, and realise the woods aren’t, in the end, all about us.

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Previous Articles

Community Monthly Update – June 2024

Our main focus this month has been collaboration with all sorts of people and organisations in our ongoing programme of events in Taymount Wood and outreach activity for the WSWG Project. Each and every event has been a source of real joy at seeing so many people benefitting in so many ways from spending and sharing time in our lovely woodlands on a diverse range of activities. Whilst we cannot claim to have beaten the record set in 2019 for our oldest participant at a WSWG event (she was an amazing 96 years old!), at only 5 weeks old a little treasure beat the record of our youngest attendee to date by a whole 11 weeks! How cool is that? Read on to find out more about these wonderful, moving and uplifting events.

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Community Monthly Update – May 2024

We are really delighted this month to start with the announcement that the winner of the WSWG April Photography Competition in the Children’s category is Dougie from Highland Perthshire. His stunning and clever photograph was taken at the head of Loch Rannoch, looking west, on Saturday 20 April. Such a beautiful, calm scene in our precious Perthshire countryside, but just look at the perfect capture of the beautiful splash effect at its heart. A truly super photo.

Congratulations, Dougie. Thank you very much for taking part in this competition and your well-deserved prize will be making its way to you very soon.

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Community Monthly Update – April 2024

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Community Monthly Update – March 2024

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Community Monthly Update – February 2024

First up this month, a big thank you to the Community Payback Team from Westbank in Perth who very kindly made an impromptu stop when passing to remove the worst of some fly tipping they spotted in the Taymount Wood car park in January. A heap of black bin-bags full of spent growing medium and general rubbish had been dumped near the entrance gate a few days earlier. They were unable to clear it all up in one go but are going to come back to complete the task for us. Moreover, they have offered to keep a watching eye on the site in future and clear up what they can. That will be such a help.

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Community Monthly Update – January 2024

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