Forest to Reflourish

Recognising the need for ecological restoration, a local group in Scotland have set about transforming a barren valley

When a 6,000 year-old hunting bow was found at Carrifran by a walker in 1990, it was immediately recognised as a major archaeological discovery. The artifact, which is now on display in the Museum of Scotland, in Edinburgh, was identified as early Neolithic, before agriculture had made an impact on local vegetation.

Core sampling of the peat, in which it had been preserved, yielded a uniquely detailed pollen record. From this, all the species of trees, shrubs and plants, that once grew in the valley and formed part of an ancient wildwood, were identified.

Today, the hills stand out in skeletal baldness; the woodland vanished long ago due to human activity. However, the Carrifran Wildwood project is working to restore the lost heritage of Scotland’s wilderness, by recreating an extensive tract of wild and largely wooded land, evoking the pristine countryside, just as it was 6,000 years ago.

To initiate this project, a keen group of friends, from Peebles in the Scottish Borders, purchased Carrifran Valley in 2000. Donations were provided by over 600 people, including several who first learnt of the project in Positive News. Now more than 450,000 native trees and shrubs have been planted and the valley is coming back to life. Birds and butterflies have returned and each new month brings fresh surprises.

Volunteering is crucial to the success of Carrifran Wildwood. Helpers come from many walks of life and the project has inspired a great number of people. To share the inspiration further, Borders Forest Trust have recently published ‘The Carrifran Wildwood Story’ by Myrtle and Philip Ashmole.

In his foreword to the book, Professor Aubrey Manning praised the ambition of the project. “There is the magnificent, almost arrogant totality of its concept: to create from scratch a large and complete wildwood in a bare and degraded valley, to re-establish its original flora and, once it has established sufficiently, to leave it almost completely alone,” he writes.

The book was recently shortlisted for the Robin Jenkins Literary Award – the UK’s first environmental book prize.

‘The Carrifran Wildwood Story” by Myrtle and Philip Ashmole, published by Borders Forest Trust.
All proceeds go to Carrifran Wildwood.
Contact: Borders Forest Trust,
Ancrum, Jedburgh, TD8 6TU
Tel: +44 (0)1835 830750
Websites: www.bordersforesttrust.org and www.carrifran.org.uk

Planting days are great opportunities to meet up with other supporters. Photo: © Carrifran Wildwood

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