Winter 2020

As it is now almost the end of February (how did that happen?), I thought it was about time we had a blog to catch up about some of the activities Borders Forest Trust staff have been up to so far this year.  It also gives me an opportunity to introduce myself as the Communications and Social Media Coordinator.  This is a new position within the charity and in the coming months you will see an increase in our social media activity including regular blogs and eNewsletters.

Our first volunteer planting of 2020 happened on the 5th January.  Perfect for blowing away the cobwebs.  41 volunteers braved the January weather for a planting day Gameshope Valley.  Elsewhere, Corehead volunteers have been kept busy removing tree tubes, planting downy birch and repairing water gates with Adrian our Engagement Officer.  We also had a work party from Network Rail who enthusiastically removed about 1000 tree tubes at Tweedhope.

At Carrifran, volunteers have been planting hazel, broom and dog rose, with our Site Officer, Andy.  There has been progress on our volunteer facilities space in the barn at Gameshope, with more work planned for the coming months.  This week, large amounts of snow have blocked access onto the Wild Heart sites and there have been multiple avalanches at Gameshope, however we are hoping they have mostly avoided our trees.

Nicola (Head of Land Management), has been taking part in a new “Soil Association Scotland Landscape Leadership programme”, happening throughout 2020.   The aim of the course is to bring together a group of people who want to make a positive change at a landscape level and improve their skills and abilities to do so. Nicola will be looking to applying these new skills to developing plans for our Wild Heart sites. As well as this, BFT tweaked her job title slightly to better reflect her current responsibilities.  Nic is the fountain of knowledge on all thing BFT, so has been answering all my questions, which are gradually lessening as I settle in and find my feet.

Volunteers tree planting with in ancient woodland remnants.  Man digging with shovel and ancient trees around him.  The sky is blue.
Volunteers tree planting with in ancient woodland remnants

Nicky, our Treescapes Officer, continues in her search for new sites suitable for planting, as well as surveying remnant ancient woodlands. Occasionally, we even let her out the office for some tree planting, although she informs me that having to chase tree tubes as they scatter in the strong winds has added a new challenge to the job! 

Anna our Community and Education Officer, has been out and about with her school groups in all weathers. So far this year, the groups have consumed nearly 2kg of marshmallows – all in the line of duty, and a well-deserved reward after learning about foraging for natural tinder and how to safely use a fire steel!  As well as primary school groups, Anna also works with local secondary schools and has projects at Borders College (I am informed they are just as keen on the marshmallows) and if anyone can get teenagers enthusiastic about the outdoors in the January rain, it is Anna.

Lisa, our BFT Volunteer Coordinator, runs the weekly woodland volunteering group and Branching Out Project has been out and about in local woodlands with her groups.  So far this year they have planted 250 trees, pruned at Drygrange Community woodland, Darnick Community woodland, and Gordon Community woodland.  Climbed to 800 feet in the rain to release and weed 60 juniper bushes and made a two seater chair and table at Gordon Community woodland.  Lisa calculates this was fuelled by approximately 650 cups of tea, 250 donuts, 40 mince pies and an unknown quantity of chocolate biscuits.

I have finally got to the bottom of my seemingly endless paperwork and am starting to think about the social media side of my job.  In addition to this I received a tutorial on axe use from Andrew, so that I can make kindling.  Although apparently I am not allowed to use the office wood stove for toasting marshmallows.

Last week our BFT Chairman, Rosalind proved yet again how hands-on she is, by heading out tree planting with musician Phamie Gow.  Rosalind cunningly managed to organise this for the only sunny day in February and along with CEO Andrew and Site Officer, Andy they were able to have a productive day tree planting.  This will be one of the last events Andrew does as the CEO of BFT as this week he is handing over to Charles Dundas.

Andrew demonstrating vole runs to Phamie Gow

Therefore, this week began with us welcoming Charles with some cake at morning coffee.  Charles comes to us – like Andrew did – from Woodland Trust Scotland, where he was in charge of policy, campaigns and advocacy.  Charles says he is, “looking forward to the new challenge of working with all the staff and supporters of BFT to help continue the great work on the ground and make sure that even more people know about the exemplary work we do.” He’s finding his feet and getting around to meet as many people as possible, but is especially enjoying fiddling with the wood-burning stove in the office between phone calls and emails.

As well as new faces, we have had regular visits from our furry 4 legged friends.

Did you read our blog about tree planting with Phamie Gow?

By Fiona Love – Communications and Social Media Coordinator (isn’t it exciting when you get to use your new title for the first time).