Rewilding the Highlands: Discovering our Woodland Heritage

Ariel Killick with pupils

29th November 2016, by Joyce Gilbert

Over the past two months the children at five local primary schools have been very busy learning about the Caledonian Forest as part of Trees for Life’s Rewilding the Highlands Project... 

Funding has come from the European Outdoor Conservation Association, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Ernest Cook Charitable Trust.

School visits to Dundreggan

In October, we ran two woodland discovery days at Dundreggan for primary schools from Fort Augustus and Invergarry. While some pupils helped in the tree nursery, others monitored trees in our regeneration zone with Dundreggan Site Manager Doug Gilbert. Feedback from pupils and teachers was overwhelmingly positive. A highlight of the visit was meeting Allan Common, who is the deer manager at Dundreggan. Allan talked to pupils about his job, showed them the equipment he used and explained how and why Trees for Life control deer on the conservation estate.

Storytellers in Schools

Gaelic storyteller Ariel Killick recently visited the primary schools in Fort Augustus, Balnain and Invergarry, using her engaging workshop ‘Adventures with the Gaelic Tree Alphabet’ to explore environmental issues, Gaelic poetry and language, and the Highland clearances. Primary schools in Drumnadrochit and Invergarry were also visited by storyteller, singer and harpist Claire Hewitt who shared woodland folklore, songs and stories while training upper primary pupils as apprentice storymakers and storytellers - in Gaelic ‘seanachaid’.

Community Celebration at Invergarry

Invergarry pupils hosted a Rewilding the Highlands cultural event in Glengarry Community Hall in early November. Nursery to Primary 7 pupils from Invergarry Primary School shared what they had been learning about the Caledonian Forest. The event was attended by around 50 people from the local community. Pupils delivered a Powerpoint presentation and had displayed some lovely examples of their work.

Looking ahead to 2017

Next spring, poets Alec Finlay and Ken Cockburn will work with secondary schools on a Gaelic place-name map, using linguistic archaeology to reveal lost woods and wildlife in Glen Affric, Glen Urquhart, Glenmoriston and Glen Garry. Pupils will carry out research, with their discoveries added to the map. Other plans include more community celebrations of the project, and walks in community woodlands with pupils who are to be trained as nature guides.


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