Rebuilding a forest


I always enjoy spending time in the Scottish mountains – but some visits are special and are likely to stick in the memory for a long time. Last week was one of the special visits.

I spent last week with a group of fabulous people helping replant the Caledonian Forest in the north of Scotland. We were all there to support the work that the charity Trees for Life does.

Trees for Life was set up about 30 years ago – and over the years has planted c. 1.5 million trees in various glens, mostly in Glen Moriston and Glen Affric to the west of Loch Ness. Over recent years their efforts have concentrated on Dundreggan, the estate that the charity was able to buy in 2008.


Glen Affric


I (and my eleven fellow volunteers) signed up to spend a week planting trees around Dundreggan fully aware that the weather in November in the north of Scotland comes with a degree of uncertainty. Our week was also the final week scheduled for the autumn season and we soon realised that there were lots of trees that needed to be planted ‘this week’.

Young Scots Pine in the Dundreggan Nursery


However, in addition to the big stack of trees (covering a wide range of the native species that should be in the Caledonian Forest) we also had one or two incentives provided. 

The biggest incentive was that we got to put the finishing touches to the Allt Ruadh New Forest. Allt Ruadh was a fairly bare 440 acre hillside a couple of years ago. About two years ago it was enclosed by substantial deer fence and since then over 300,000 trees have been planted. We got to plant the last few hundred scots pine and downy birch before toasting the final tree and closing the gate behind us. There’s not yet much to see on the hillside (unless you look very closely) but in ten or fifteen years time it just might look very special.

New Forest of Allt Ruadh


Scots Pine at Allt Ruadh


Planting the last tree in Allt Ruadh


The other incentive was that having completed Allt Ruadh we got to work planting some of the estate land along the River Moriston, and that meant we were close enough to Dundreggan Lodge to be able to come back at lunchtime for homemade bread and soup.

River Moriston


Over the course of 5 working days, I and my fellow volunteers planted 4,184 trees (and two big buckets of acorns). And we’re told that was a record number for a one week session.

Thank you to Abbey, Andy, Callum, Douglas, Iszi, Lawrence, Lorraine, Sheila and Tom for their company and good conversation, and particularly to Kate and Stephen who kept us organised and told us where to plant the trees.

If you want to help with restoring the Caledonian Forest there is still lots to do. We might have finished the New Forest of Allt Ruadh but in spring 2019 volunteers will be starting, in another part of Dundreggan, to plant the New Beinn Bhan Forest.

In addition to pictures in this post there are more pictures in a Flickr album, and if you want to see what I got up to on a day-by-bay basis, the photo diary started on blipfoto on 2nd November

And finally, thank you to Oxford Brookes University – who gave me a little bit of additional time off to spend planting trees!

Click here to find out more about volunteering with Trees for Life