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 – 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.

Read More »

Community Monthly Update – April 2024

On Sunday 14 April, a lovely bunch of people turned out for a WSWG Guided Climate and Biodiversity Walk in Taymount Wood to celebrate the start of the new Perth & Kinross Climate Action Hub (PKCAH) for which funding has been secured from the Scottish Government.

Read More »

Community Monthly Update – March 2024

It is a disappointing thing to have to do, but a surprisingly rewarding thing to have done. We are talking about picking up someone else’s litter. We all know Taymount Wood car park occasionally suffers from fly tipping, but it is regular littering which is more of a chronic problem, clogging the ditches, being strewn around the verges, blown into the brambles and nettles, overgrown by rank grass, buried in the soil, or crushed by vehicles if not removed regularly.

Read More »

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.

Read More »

Community Monthly Update – January 2024

Unusually, we’re starting this Monthly Update with a “What’s Coming Up Next” item! This message is principally for people in the Stanley and District community but we’d love to suggest all villages in the West Stormont area follow suit with their own aim of becoming a Biodiversity Village.

Read More »

Community Monthly Update – December 2023

It’s another year end and this time WSWG member Françoise from Stanley has created an exquisite 2024 calendar of “Wildflowers and Friends” she photographed in Taymount Wood this year to help raise funds for WSWG. Having gone for a print run of 50, these gorgeous calendars are available on a first-come, first-served basis for a donation of £10 (or a bit more if you wish!) with net proceeds going towards the purchase of the woods.

Read More »