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 – 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

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.

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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.

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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

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.

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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.

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