About the work

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All of the work that volunteers carry out on our Conservation Weeks helps to restore the ancient Caledonian Forest to the Scottish Highlands.

 

Planting trees 

Our volunteers plant trees in areas where the forest is unlikely to be able to regenerate itself because of the remoteness of the nearest seed sources. Planting usually takes place in exclosures, within fences that prevent overgrazing by sheep and deer.

Removing non-native species

Many sites that are designated for Caledonian Forest restoration were formerly plantations of spruce and lodgepole pine. Left to their own devices, the plantation trees out-compete the native trees and it is this regeneration that we tackle, using bow saws and loppers, or by ring-barking the trees. Occasionally, we remove rhododendron where this invasive non-native shrub is endangering the native vegetation.

Removing fences 

Where fences are no longer needed we remove them because they are an unnatural element in the landscape and pose a serious threat to birds such as black grouse and capercaillie, which sometimes fly into them. Fence removal is a very popular and satisfying team activity as it is easy to see how much has been achieved in a short space of time.

Tree nursery work 

Activities at our Tree Nursery at Dundreggan include sowing seeds, potting and pricking out seedlings, helping to propagate rare tree species and much more. These are gentle tasks, ideal for those who want less of a physical challenge.

Collecting seeds & berries 

We collect pine cones for their seeds in spring, while most other seeds and berries are collected in autumn. This is a leisurely activity that takes volunteers into beautiful mature forest.

Putting up stock fencing & tree guards 

Some sites we work at have resident, although controlled, deer populations. Here we put up small stock fences both to protect the planted trees and to safeguard the naturally occurring seedlings.

Surveying & monitoring 

An important element of our work is monitoring various aspects of the forest habitat. This can include wildlife and vegetation surveys as well as following up on previous years' planting projects.

Tree fertilising  

As some of the land we plant on has been depleted of nutrients we supplement the planted trees with natural rock phosphate to encourage good root growth and aid the establishment of the young trees.

No previous experience of volunteering or conservation work is necessary to participate in our Conservation Weeks, but you do need to have a reasonable level of fitness. Each task begins with an explanation and demonstration by the leaders, who also cover the safety aspects you will need to bear in mind. We provide volunteers with all tools and safety equipment, such as hard hats and goggles, where necessary. All the work bears directly upon some aspect of forest restoration.

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