Criticised Forest Pitch sees last match as project moves to next stage

THE Borders’ much-maligned Forest Pitch has seen its last football game.

Last week saw around 100 primary school pupils from Selkirkshire join up with Borders Forest Trust volunteers and amateur footballers to plant 800 native Scots trees, which organisers say will create a giant living sculpture by marking the shape of the pitch.

The £460,000 arts project near Selkirk, Scotland’s main contribution to the Cultural Olympiad which ran alongside this summer’s London Olympics, has been dogged by controversy.

The cost of the arts experience was heavily criticised, and then the proposed July date for the only two matches to be played on it was postponed due to bad weather, until finally going ahead at the end of August.

Then in October, there were reports that youngsters were using the remote pitch’s wooden pavilion as a drinking den.

But artist Craig Coulthard is still positive about the impact of his arts project.

He told us: “The trees will have a long lifespan, so I hope that the schoolchildren, and all those who came to the matches, will come back over the years to show their parents, friends and eventually their own children, the sculpture they played a part in creating.

“Forest Pitch is somewhere the public can enjoy for decades to come. The trees have been chosen because they will have different colours and textures all year round. I hope it will encourage people to remember the games played here and remember the Olympics and the values of amateur sport.”

Borders MP and Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore added: “The planting of the trees will ensure that the project continues to be enjoyed for years to come and keep alive the memory of the football matches in the summer. I’m glad so many local school children were able to go along and be a part of the action and I’m sure the project will be a fantastic legacy for the 2012 Olympic Games here in the Borders.”

Among the species planted were Scottish oak, Scots pine, birch and hawthorn.

Jane Rosegrant, director of the Borders Forest Trust, added: “It’s a really unusual project and it’s great to be getting the community involved in this way.

“We are keen to get children outdoors and learning beyond the classroom. We also like to encourage them to think about volunteering time and the difference they can make – particularly to projects involving trees and woodland. Planting trees is something that children really enjoy as it’s very rewarding.”

Iain Munro, director of the much-criticised Creative Scotland, said the planting was fitting ahead of the Year of Natural Scotland in 2013.

The primary schools involved in planting the trees were Lilliesleaf, Kirkhope and Knowepark.