BFT set to grow in 2014 with your help

Dr Jane Rosegrant at Borders Forest Trust's base near Ancrum.
Dr Jane Rosegrant at Borders Forest Trust's base near Ancrum.
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This year, 2014, is set to be our biggest year yet; we’re growing, with new staff to join soon and, we hope, lots of new members and volunteers to help us.

Our big news is the purchase of a new site, the Talla and Gameshope estate in the Southern Uplands.

The 1,832 hectare (4,527 acre) site is larger than all our existing sites put together, and our first major site within the Scottish Borders.

To date, much of our work has focused on Corehead Farm and Carrifran Wildwood, located in Dumfries and Galloway.

At its southern end, Talla and Gameshope borders Carrifran Wildwood, so we have a fantastic opportunity to restore a really significant area, bridging both regions.

When we talk about restoration, we are in some instances looking back to several thousand years ago.

Since that time more than 99 percent of our native woodland has been lost, following hundreds of years of human activity. This is bad news for wildlife, as more and more habitats disappear. We seek to reverse this decline and improve biodiversity, with the help of local communities.

Our first task at Talla and Gameshope is to fundraise for the money needed to begin our work at the site. Then, we will carry out surveys of species to be found there and make plans for how to support greater biodiversity. There will eventually be lots of opportunities to get involved with volunteering and events.

In the meantime, we would love to see you at Corehead Farm, where new native woodland is establishing happily alongside our working sheep farm. We also have a community orchard with a young edible hedge taking root and hay meadows where we are working to improve wildflower biodiversity.

We have a tree-planting session on April 5 when volunteers of all ages are encouraged to come along and enjoy the superb scenery while planting and tending to our young trees. These are made possible thanks to support from Scottish Natural Heritage.

In spring, when the tree-planting season has passed, we will turn our attention to wildlife surveying, improving our wetlands and restoring our heathlands. We know that heather and blaeberry were once common on the hilltops at Corehead, so it is important that we focus on restoring these habitats as well as woodland.

Wetlands, while not prime farmland, are a fantastic habitat for wildlife. We already have a resident moorhen in our pond, and through the various wetlands on site we would like to encourage other birds such as lapwing and snipe. Pupils from Beattock Primary School in Moffat have become champions of the pond and are planning to study it annually to see how wildlife colonises over time.

Corehead is very much about communities – of people, plants, birds and animals. Local participation is fundamental to the site’s success in becoming an important educational resource in the South of Scotland showing how wildlife and farming can thrive together.

To donate, volunteer, or find out about upcoming events, visit www.bordersforesttrust.org or telephone Borders Forest Trust on 01835 830 750.