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Working Wood - Forest and Woodlands

Planting oak mixed broadleaf streamside planting at AE, Dumfriesshire
Planting oak mixed
broadleaf streamside
planting at Ae,
Dumfriesshire

Until 6,000 years ago, woodland covered valley floors, slopes and hilltops - only the high tops and some wetlands were treeless. Since then, almost all of the original woodland has been cleared from the Southern Uplands and today much of the land is farmed, grazed by sheep.

Distinctive remnant native woodlands surviving in cleuchs (ravines) and fragments of ancient wood pasture are refuges for birdlife and internationally important mosses, liverworts and lichens. Rare black grouse may be seen on their moorland margins. Scattered fragments of ancient juniper and willow scrub still exist, particularly in Nithsdale.

Tweed Valley from Glentress showing a network of forest, wood and hedgerows
Tweed Valley from
Glentress showing a
network of forest,
wood and hedgerows

Tree plantations have a long history, starting hundreds of years ago with Scots pine and oak. In the 17th century, landowners began planting within the 'policies' of large estates, using a wide range of non-native species. Designed parklands 18th and 19th century continued this process, with scattered mature trees set within grassland providing an important habitat. Since the mid-1980s, there has been increased interest in the protection of native woods as many are nearing the end of their natural lives. A number of Community Woods have been established across the south of Scotland and this initiative is growing.

The south of Scotland remains a stronghold for the red squirrel
The south of Scotland
remains a stronghold
for the red squirrel

After the Second World War, there was a major expansion of conifer forests, mainly introduced Sitka spruce. These productive forests provide the vast majority of the tree cover in the Southern Uplands and have had a major impact on the landscape. Since the late 1980s, Forest Enterprise has been combining timber production and landscape enhancement, and now forest design plans have more broad-leaved trees, Scots pine and open ground. Short-eared owls and black grouse are found in young and re-stocked forests. Mature forests are home to crossbills, siskins, goshawks and long-eared owls. At the northern limit of their range, nightjars may be heard in the late evenings. Red squirrels still thrive as they can extract conifer seeds more efficiently than grey squirrels and ways of discouraging greys are being trialled by forest managers. Sika and roe deer are widespread and red deer are found in the west. Sika deer have been introduced to the east.

"The scenes are desert now, and bare,
Where flourish'd once a forest fair,
When these waste glens with copse were lined"

Sir Walter Scott, 'Marmion'

Useful links:

www.forestry.gov.uk
www.community-woods.org.uk
www.reforestingscotland.org
www.red-squirrels.org.uk
www.snh.gov.uk
www.bordersforesttrust.org
www.aawp.org.uk
www.eastayrshirewoodlands.co.uk
www.reforestingscotland.org

 

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