26th November 2018, by Trainees Nick and Tim
After a collection, seed is processed, sown or stored, ready to become the trees of future years. Various species of seed are collected from sites on our Dundreggan estate, but for others we need to travel further afield – to sites such as Glen Affric. We did two collections in Glen Affric this year with the aim of collecting hazel and rowan seed. The weather had scheduled the first named storm (Storm Ali) of the year to hit the North West at the same time we had planned collections. Nonetheless, we set out to collect hazelnuts with buckets in hands and waterproofs zipped up tight. We scrambled up and down through shoulder height bracken and knots of brambles searching for and collecting hazel nuts. Despite the rain, the odd sighting of a red squirrel lifted our spirits and made up for the weather. The second day proved to be even wetter – we left Glen Affric with a bucket full of rowan berries. Another collection day was planned for Glen Affric later in the year and the two visits would give two very different impressions of the Glen.
Almost a month later in the midst of autumn we went out collecting again, this time for juniper berries. The date was set and the forecast was promising, we were greeted with a crisp and cold misty morning, the sun rising over the southern hills of Loch Ness, filling us with warmth and excitement for the day ahead. Once we collected our colleagues we drove far up the Glen crossing the river Affric to reach the collection site. The scenery transformed from birch wood to open spaces of heather, Scots pine and the juniper we were looking for. We went to a spot last visited for a collection over 3 years ago. After a short walk through thick heather we were met by Juniper bushes brimming with green, pink and dark blue/purple berries.
The darker berries being the ones we wanted to collect as they have been on the bushes for at least two years and are ripe for the picking. These ripe berries are sweet and crunchy with the distinct taste of gin. From start to finish it could not have been a nicer day, blue skies, light cloud, a soft breeze and abundant Juniper berries falling off the branches with ease. We left happy in our days labours and enchanted by the autumnal splendour of Glen Affric in all its forms, come rain or shine.
The Skills for Rewilding programme is
funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
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