Nature lovers called on to help save Gala Policies

Conservationist Bonnie Fairbrass with a 150-year-old beech tree, which has been destroyed by fire-raisers in Galashiels.
Conservationist Bonnie Fairbrass with a 150-year-old beech tree, which has been destroyed by fire-raisers in Galashiels.

Nature lovers in Galashiels are being invited to gather next week to help guarantee the long-term future of a vital community woodland.

There was widespread dismay expressed last month after vandals torched a 150-year-old beech tree at Gala Policies, located on the southern edge of the town.

The 100ft high tree, which was subject to a tree preservation order, will now have to be felled as a result of the attack.

The incident has highlighted the need to protect the area.

Galashiels councillor Euan Jardine, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for culture and sport, has offered his support to the formation of an action group to maintain the site, with ideas touted including better signage to discourage fly-tipping and the upgrading of some of the core paths.

A driving force behind the formation of the group is Galashiels resident and sculptor Bonnie Fairbrass.

She has encouraged other concerned residents to gather at the Focus Centre in Livingston Place next Thursday, from 5.30pm to 7pm, to discuss ways of taking the plans forward.

Bonnie wants to tap into the skills of Gala folk, in particular those people with an interest in wildlife and species recording, administration, conservation, storytelling, fundraising, tree surgery and nature photography.

But those who are happy just to volunteer and to get down and dirty to maintain the site are also invited to pop along.

Bonnie said: “We hope to focus on different areas under one unified umbrella group: from basic clean up/litter picking to informative nature walks and talks, species identification courses and foraging workshops.

“We are also keen to improve things like seating and covered areas using materials available in the wood.

“Alongside these activities we would like to raise funds to pay for the improvements, such as fire proof bins, signage, rewilding of native species and community events within the woodland, all with a leave-no-trace, minimum impact ethos.

“While the policies is not in immediate danger, it is not cared for as much as it could be and whilst the council do as much as they can to manage the area and the pathways within it, there is so much more that can be done.

“Next week’s meeting is to establish the committee and gather a list of potential volunteers to help the project.”