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

“Little Acorns, Great Oaks” by Margaret Lear

It’s a bit like walking on ball bearings in some woods this year. They slide away under your feet and you slide with them, temporarily on arboricultural ice, until crack-crack-crunch, and you’ve squashed them. The little oak-trees-in- waiting. Acorns. Acorns galore. 2020 is what’s called a “mast year”, when all the oak trees seem to produce more acorns than it is possible for the squirrels, mice, jays and other nut-inclined creatures to harvest or store.
West Stormont Woodland Group

That actually seems to be the point – too many for all the predators ensures that some will get below ground (sometimes conveniently buried there by forgetful squirrels), germinate, and become oak trees. What’s mysterious, and wonderful, is how nearly all the oak trees across the country choose the same year to over-produce.

Acorns are not merely a valuable food source for wildlife, however. Humans have used them for millennia. Dried, the kernels can be ground up and used as meal, or flour, although they are very bitter unless treated by repeated washing to sweeten them up. As this is clearly a bit of a faff, most mediaeval peasants and farmers used acorns to fatten a pig instead, and the pig clearly doesn’t have a sweet tooth. Remember Piglet in Winnie-the-Pooh and his Haycorns? Acorns were used widely, along with other plants such as chicory and dandelion roots, during the second world war, as a coffee substitute. The nuts have to be chopped well and roasted, then ground up and roasted again. They are actually not unlike coffee when made into a drink, but I confess I’m no coffee gourmet. The bitterness comes from tannin, which is found in most parts of the oak tree. Some tannin sharpens flavour (as in a cup of tea). It also has medicinal uses as an astringent, and ground acorns have been used in a tincture to treat chronic diarrhoea.

With woods in mind – especially woods where greater tree diversity would benefit the ecosystem – it seems only sensible to harvest some of this extraordinary acorn surplus and introduce the oaks-in-waiting to our woods. Neither Five Mile Wood nor Taymount Wood boast much in the way of oak trees, even though Kinclaven Bluebell Wood, right on the doorstep, is ancient oak woodland.

Why introduce oak trees? They live for hundreds of years and support the greatest variety of other species of any of our native trees. They continue to act as habitats, homes and food larders long after they are dead. And they’re outrageously lovely. Fungi interact with oak tree roots and give rise to soil conditions that are perfect for some iconic wildflowers (the bluebell is just one). They ring with birdsong in spring. They can be chewed and mined by a thousand invertebrates, yet scarcely seem to notice (but beware the dreaded Oak Processionary Moth). There are also good reasons for using acorns from a wide range of trees. Collecting from oak trees in varying habitats, big, small, spreading, upright, ensures genetic diversity, which is vital to all plants (and almost all animal species) for resilience to challenges from climate, predation, changes in habitat and so on. Local sources are good, because the trees producing mast have already self-selected for local conditions.

So West Stormont Woodland Group are going after acorns! Join us to collect mast from local woods now, and in the new year we’ll all go and plant them in Five Mile Wood. This wood’s been chosen because it has a large gap area to

repopulate, and because it’s ridiculously full of gorse. How does gorse help? It will protect the baby trees in the early years from deer, who just love a mouthful of sapling to chomp on. Planting should be easy – just a stick and an acorn in the hole. Squirrels manage it, so I’m sure WSWG will, too. Not every acorn will make a full grown tree– so let’s gather lots and lots. We won’t see them mature. But we can know a vision for the future, here and now.

Watch this beautiful acorn germinating underground and then the oak seedling growing. Time lapse filmed over 8 months!



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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