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

Give me Shelter!

A recent walk to Five Mile Wood on a blisteringly cold and windy March day forced an awareness of how open it is - and that gave me this month's challenge right away. Part of the means of rising to the challenge may come from the gift!
West Stormont Woodland Group

So, the challenge – it’s March. The month that can’t decide whether to ally itself with winter or summer, blows literally hot and cold – but blows anyway, more often than not. This March, temperatures have veered spectacularly – almost hot at times when the sun is fully out, only to evoke shivers and a sullen quest for shelter when the sun goes behind the never-far-away bank of clouds.

No windbreak here…

The track in Five Mile Wood is set up on the plateau, where the clearance of the windthrown central forest has left only bare, angular, dead or dying thin trees, leafless and affording no windbreak. The wind skitters over the gorse; the tall grasses and herbage of summer still skulk in the earth. Between the grey and ghastly yellow of dead wood, last year’s vegetation lies smashed and parched, husky and brittle, dessicated by months of ice, snow and frost.

There is nowhere to hide. Nothing to distract, punctuate or alleviate the March winds and the wreckage of a long winter.

And so to the potential gift from the woods – one that might, in time, give some respite from the challenge of March. We have few native evergreen trees. Apart from the magnificent Scots Pine (which can be poor shelter when most of its branches are way above our heads), there are only holly, box and yew. Holly is an important food source for many birds, especially the blackbird family and the robin from the Christmas card, and into any suitable habitat those birds will pass the seeds from all the berries they have eaten. Thus, holly will start to appear in snatches of clearing or under bigger trees, the seedlings going unnoticed until the taproots are impossible to get out. It was a relief to see, on the margins of the cleared gap in Five Mile Wood, a couple of well-established young holly bushes. They may have grown from seed from a handsome mature tree, decked with twining stems of honeysuckle, that grows on the edge of the wood.

Hollies are dioecious. You get male trees and female trees, and only the females have berries. They’ll only produce berries if they are pollinated by a male tree. In March, there are just a few berries left, lurking behind the armoured leaves, while a thrush skulks in the greenery, hunting them out. He is just beginning to try out his repetitious mating call. Aside from shelter from March winds and berries for birds, holly is one of the most valuable wildlife plants and a real gift to have in a wood. Wood mice and other small mammals also feed on the berries, and deer enjoy a prickly snack of holly shoots. Holly trees are as essential to insects as the insects are to the hollies for pollination. The holly by the track is already playing host to the Holly Leaf Miner – an invertebrate recognised by the squiggly patterns of its tunnels, between the upper and lower surfaces of the leaf. These creatures have co-existed with the holly tree for a very long time, and do little real harm to the tree, although the texts of the horticultural imperialists will make them sound like the devil incarnate and command the use of an army of chemicals to destroy them. Don’t fall for it.

There is a very beautiful butterfly, the Holly Blue, whose caterpillars in spring feed almost entirely on shoots of holly, and later broods move onto ivy. It’s not common in Scotland, although it has been seen dotted around. The looper caterpillars of the holly tortrix moth, as well as many other insect larvae, seek refuge in this prickly tree too.

And like all evergreens, it provides impenetrable debris for hibernating hedgehogs and is a formidable cosy shelter tree for roosting or nesting birds. Not to mention windblown humans in March.



Previous Articles

Community Monthly Update – November 2023

We are really thrilled to let you know that Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) has approved WSWG’s Revised Wildwood Proposal and Business Plan for Taymount Wood. This is the first big goal achieved in our Community Asset Transfer Process to bring Taymount and Five Mile Woods into community ownership!

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Community Monthly Update – October 2023

A highlight for the WSWG Project this month has been the timely teaming up of a group of employees from Aviva in Perth with some unexpectedly lovely autumn weather for a day of corporate volunteering. On 2 October, five enthusiastic Aviva colleagues spent the day with WSWG in the middle of Taymount Wood on a range of interesting and very useful tasks, quite a contrast to their usual office based working environment.

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Community Monthly Update – September 2023

Given the distinctly seasonal change in the weather of late, we thought we would bring our Word of the Month up to the top of our September update. Psithurism: (Noun) The sound of wind in the trees and rustling of leaves, from “psithuros”, the Greek word for whispering. Enjoy your woods this autumn!

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Community Monthly Update – August 2023

This month we really want to share with you a wonderful event we had – the joint woodland picnic on 22 July with Tayside Woodland Partnerships (TWP). We pitched our gazebos in a lovely grassy glade in Taymount Wood and set out a delicious picnic spread courtesy of Alison’s Kitchen in Blairgowrie – quiches, sausage rolls and cakes galore – on portable tables kindly lent to us by Stanley Village Hall. More food and home-baking was brought by the picnickers themselves. Despite weather forecasts to the contrary, it was a beautiful day with not a drop of rain or drizzle. After lots of great chat and good food, we heard a little about each of our organisations’ respective projects and then took a walk up the main track to King’s Myre Loch.

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Community Monthly Update – July 2023

First up this month is for us to say a big thank you to a lovely group of young people from Ochil Tower School in Auchterarder who had come on a mini-bus trip to visit Taymount Wood on 21 June … and just did a litter-pick whilst they were there!! What a great example of being good citizens – enjoying the environment and taking care of it together.

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Community Monthly Update – June 2023

We want to start with a big thank you to all WSWG volunteers who helped in the Wildflower and Mining Bee Rescue Mission this spring. Many times more wildflowers have come through along the various stretches of raked verge than would have been the case had they remained swamped by gorse mulch and, as seen in the photo here, mining bees have successfully emerged where the track surfaces were cleared to help them out too. And of course the cleared sections of track make for more comfortable going again for walkers and dogs. Lots more areas still need attention, and we will keep doing what we can when we can, but thank you again to everyone who helped make a difference for nature this spring.

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