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 Pictures, Big Pictures

Wandering into Five Mile Wood last week, I was considering what might turn out to be the wood’s gift this month when I got distracted by a long-ago fallen log. Or rather, the holes in it.

A close inspection did not reveal who made the holes, nor what was living in them, but “invertebrates” I thought, are the gift of the woods.

Five Mile Wood has no shortage of fallen timber, stumps and standing dead wood, and invertebrates, from wood-boring beetles to the ants revealed by moving a section of mashed wood (who refused to stay still and pose for a photograph) are constantly processing all this material. The term is detrivores – eaters of detritus. They demolish it, digest it, live in it, reproduce in it and become prey for larger animals such as woodpeckers, who continue the process.

They do all this in conjunction with primitive plants such as algae, liverworts, lichens and mosses, who use rain and weather to colonise the rotting wood, and turn every stump into an unimaginably beautiful and complex micro-universe – ever-changing, adapting, a garden busy with life and death. The death of a slug grazing on algae on a log creates nutrients for more life to form. Do not forget the fungi, those other agents of decomposition, active undetected within the wood, until you notice the rhizomorphs – black strands of fungal hyphae lurking under the shattered bark – or the curious buttons that will turn into this season’s fruiting bodies.

Fungi attract more invertebrates – like the slugs I found breakfasting forensically on an early toadstool and who did stay still enough to be recorded. As huge fruiting bodies break down, more life teems to populate their remains.

Such beauty in the process of decomposition! The parts we can see – trails of bark beetles, the subtle colouration of heartwood from fungal incursion, the mystery of camouflaged holes and the patterns of the obvious ones! And the wonder, the glory, withheld in the bits we cannot see…..

I emerged very satisfied, through mud and ditch, under and over fallen trees, onto the path in the “Gap Site” centre of the wood, which tingled with birdsong. What gap site? There are clearly no gaps here, bar the path itself. I couldn’t believe how tall the regenerating birches and willows are now, how golden the gorse, how vibrant with life it was.

No one has planted it, yet here is an exuberant young wood romping through the processes of succession and change, home to plants and animals we may never see. I belong to a number of on- and offline groups which are either about rewilding, or in which rewilding is an important topic of conversation. The question – and the challenge – is this: Is rewilding something that happens, or something you do? It’s a question that incurs endless debate, even argument, among people who essentially all want nature to succeed. A lot of disagreement ranges around whether gorse is “good” or “bad” or whether it’s just gorse. Should we graft our values onto other species? Are we in control – should we be? Do we try to manipulate nature to give us the kind of rewilding we want? If we don’t, is this a cop-out, allowing invasive, non-natives such as Giant Hogweed to predominate? Will we end up drowning in Rhododendron ponticum, effectively smothering plant diversity and devastating the range of animal species? Do we plant our preferred species now, or wait for natural succession to see them “arrive”?

Take the “Gap Site”. Here’s a wee Rowan tree – how good is that! But shall we pull out this alien copper beech sapling nearby? Or maybe all the beeches, after all, they’re not native to Scotland! Here’s a nice Scots Pine. But oh dear, the self-sown spruces by the path are a menace; we don’t want another plantation….do we? Do we want the gorse and larch saplings to create an interesting tunnel-like avenue as we come out of the gap into mature woodland? Is it pretty? Does it need to be?

Gorse and larch make a curiously intimate avenue

I don’t have answers to this challenge and am as conflicted as the next person. But I do believe that we all need to be aware of the question and hold it in our minds when we think about the future of our woodlands.



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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