True survivor is hailed as a symbol of hope

‘The Survivor Rowan’ in Carrifran Wildwood valley near Moffat has been awarded Scotland’s Tree of the Year 2020.

By Kevin Janiak
Thursday, 22nd October 2020, 10:45 am
The Survivor Rowan, looked after by Borders Forest Trust, has been named Scotland’s Tree of the Year 2020.
The Survivor Rowan, looked after by Borders Forest Trust, has been named Scotland’s Tree of the Year 2020.

The competition has been run by the Woodland Trust since 2014 and each year a tree with a great story is voted for by the public. A previous local winner was the Ding Dong tree in Prestonpans.

Twenty years ago, this rowan tree was one of very few in the Carrifran valley, and had been scarred by feral goats. Now, it looks very different, surrounded by its offspring, which are springing up from berries scattered by the wind and dispersed by visiting birds.

Philip Ashmole, who co-ordinates the Carrifran Wildwood project and who took the original photo of the rowan in 1998, says: “I think this tree has won because it and its progeny symbolise the return of the full richness of life to the hills of Scotland after many centuries of decline, when ordinary people come together to undertake the task.

Fi Martynoga at Carrifran.

“The Survivor Rowan is not majestic or ancient like many of the other entries – but it is a symbol of hope.”

Fi Martynoga who nominated the tree on behalf of the Borders Forest Trust said: “Twenty years ago our rowan showed us that trees could flourish in a barren upland valley. It has been thrilling to see that come about, and to see the huge increase in other wildlife they have brought with them.”

The aim of the Borders Forest Trust is to ‘Revive the Wild Heart of Southern Scotland’.

Borders Forest Trust has acquired three sites: Carrifran Wildwood; Talla and Gameshope; and Corehead, and has planted moren than 600,000 trees in Carrifran alone.

This year, the trust has released a second book; ‘A Journey in Landscape Restoration’, telling the story of their achievements and looking towards a future of further landscape scale ecological restoration.

Next year, as the UN decade of ecosystem restoration begins, it will be 25 years since Borders Forest Trust was founded, and events are being planned to celebrate this.

In years to come, the rowan – which grows less than five miles from the Grey Mare’s Tail – will be obscured from view and will be just one tree among many, so it is perhaps fitting it is getting its moment in the limelight.