A really interesting outing

Today’s guest picture is another from my brother Andrew and his outing to Scarborough with my two older sisters. They had excellent weather today.

We had a lovely day here too which was lucky as Kat, the volunteer leader for the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve, had organised an outing for us. We were going to visit the Carrifran Wildwood, a major restoration of a valley near Moffat, 44 miles to the north of Langholm.

We picked up John, a fellow volunteer, and set off in our electric car, hoping that our battery would not let us down. The drive up was a pleasure in the sunshine and we arrived safely at our destination.

Carrifran is a fairly narrow valley out of which this stream issues.

Kat and the other volunteers arrived after us and were greeted by Andy, the Borders Forest Trust worker who was going to show us round.

Carrifran was originally a area farmed for sheep, and as a result it was like our hills, very bare ground with not a tree in sight. 22 years of dedicated and extremely thoughtful work have gone into its development, and every tree that you see in the pictures in the post has been planted by the organisers and volunteers who have worked on the project. There are hundreds of thousands of them.

Essential to the success of the project was keeping sheep and deer off the land as the new planting went ahead, and the fence dividing the project from neighbouring spruce plantations and sheep ground can be seen here.

The valley has been developed with a mosiac of different environments so there are open spaces as well as thickly planted areas.

We followed a rough path up the valley enjoying the changes as we went along. Remember, every tree in these pictures has been planted in the last 22 years.

The hills at the head of the valley are quite big at over 2000 ft, and we were over 1000 ft in our walk along the valley bottom.

Andy stopped to explain the thinking behind each section as we went along, and outlined many of the hard choices that the project managers have to make.

As there are no sheep to eat every growing thing, there were plenty of flowers to see along the path.

. . . and lots of other things of interest as well. The crop of sloes on the blackthorns was magnificent

We walked up towards the head of the valley and got into more open country as we gained height.

We didn’t cross the little bridge, which is there to give access to the far side of the valley for volunteers doing the tree planting. Looking back down the valley, the left hand side was planted first . . .

. . . so the trees on the right hand side are some way behind in their development.

It is an exceptionally beautiful place to have your packed lunch . . .

. . . with better views round every corner.

. . . and the gentle noise of the stream as an accompaniment.

The crag in the background is called Raven Craig, and we saw ravens and buzzards as we ate our lunch. Andy pointed out that the density of the planting looks very different when viewed from different places, and the woods which looked quite open as we had walked up through them, looked much more closely packed when we looked back at them

After lunch, and more discussion of the project and its aims and ambitions, we walked back . . .

. . . through the varied planting, still finding out more from Andy as we went along.

A final plunge through the thicker planting at the bottom of the valley . . .

. . . brought us back to the small car park and the end of our adventure.

My pictures in no way do justice to the scale of the project, the immense amount of work that has been done, and the wonderful results that 22 years of hard, hard work have achieved. It is an inspiration to everyone involved in our Tarras Valley scheme.

An interesting contrast is provided on the other side of the main road which shows the stark results of sheep farming and commercial forestry on the same hills.

We drove home greatly inspired.

We took the old main road, now a quiet B road beside the M74, and a vehicle fire on the motorway meant that we had to face streams of traffic using the back road that we were on coming in the other direction. Apart from a tense moment at some traffic lights at road works in Ecclefechan which threatened to produce a complete bottleneck, we got through safely. For the motorway traffic going north, it must have been a miserable experience.

What was very pleasing was that we drove the 88 miles there and back without using even half of our car battery storage. The good weather probably helped that quite a lot. We go further for less electricity when it is a hot day.

After the rough country at Carrifran, our lawn looked very smooth and green when we got home.

Although we hadn’t walked very far in the Wildwood, we had been on our feet for a long time and we were more than grateful for a cup of tea and quiet sit down.

We did get out into the garden later, and we found that it was full of butterflies again.

Starlings flew overhead . . .

. . .and a jackdaw on the roof couldn’t decide which was its best side for a portrait. I took both.

The flying bird of the day is one of the butterflies.

Published by tootlepedal

Cyclist, retired teacher, curmudgeon, keen amateur photographer.

29 thoughts on “A really interesting outing

  1. That certainly is a beautiful area. There are very few places here without trees nearby so nature reclaims anything man ignores very quickly. I’ve seen trees growing even on the flat roofs of deserted factory buildings.
    I’d guess that your own tree planting efforts will soar with renewed vigor.
    Your shot of the difference between sheep farming and commercial forestry land was both interesting and alarming but I do know that, if allowed, nature will reclaim all of it.

    1. Are your woodlands varied? Our problem is that almost all the trees planted until very recently were imported conifers for commercial use so our biodiversity was not great. The conifers outcompete local broadleaved trees if they get a chance.

      1. Most of our forests are mixed hardwood and evergreen, yes. I’ve never counted all the different species but I think the number would be surprisingly large. Maybe one day your area will get back to being that way.

    1. There were no trees there at all at the start so it was tree planting or nothing. We have got some natural regeneration in the Tarras Valley which will help us.

  2. Carrifran is a very beautiful area. Your group has done a terrific job of reclaiming it from sheep. I agree with New Hampshire on the difference between sheep farming and commercial forestry land being rather alarming.

    1. We can’t claim any responsibility for the Borders Forest Trust work at Carrifran but we hope that our work in the Tarras Valley will be valuable too.

    1. I agree with that as far as cattle and pigs go. I am am not sure that sheep at anything other than at a very small scale and a biodiverse environment are compatible

      1. It’s a strange world. We spend much time in the Cevennes National Park in France. Near us are the high ‘causses’ grazed by sheep in the summer for centuries. And yet one of the botanically richest areas in Western Europe. The clue is grazing intensity, and here it has always been low (because it is dry). But no-one anywhere thinks that is economically viable, which is probably a good thing but leaves a management issue here!

  3. Very interesting to see Carrifran, and find, of course, how consistent it is with what we’re being told up here in the Highlands, notably about the depredations caused by sheep and deer.

  4. An interesting outing indeed. What a lot of forward thinking, planning and hard work has gone into achieving those wildwood results.

  5. What a great project and all that work… but it looks very promising already. I love these places where nature can develop without the interaction of humans (except for the planting of the trees). My respect for those who put their energy in this project.

    1. There are big questions to ask about it as well as admiration for their hard work. I have doubts about schemes which exclude people from the environment.

  6. It’s a lovely and inspiring place, full of willow warblers when we visited in the spring. There are places where conservationists say tree-planting is not needed because once the sheep and deer have gone, natural regeneration will suffice (and may be better). I guess there were sheep for a long time at Carrrifran compared with places further north but I wonder what regeneration there might be on Langholm Moor.

      1. That’s great. One thing I notice (including elsewhere in Europe where it is more surprising) is that English Oak seems often to be amongst the first. It must be able to survive for a long time and then eventually to out-compete wind-blown birch and others. I wonder how it copes with bracken.

  7. Now that’s an amazing accomplishment to change the landscape in such a relatively short span of time. Thank you for all the photos and descriptions which make it easier to understand what has happened in Carrifran Wildwood.
    Love the photo of your garden and the lawn.

    1. They have acquired a lot more land since they started at Carrifran and are expanding their ambitions accordingly. It would be nice to be young enough to be around to see what happens in fifty years. They are full of interesting ideas.

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