15 years ago a group of people in Peebles came together with the idea of trying to restore a part of the ancient woodland that would have covered our border hillsides as the ice age came to an end.
The landscape that we now accept as natural is, of course, no such thing. It has been formed by man’s activities during centuries of burning and overgrazing. This group of visionaries decided that they would raise the money to buy a suitable piece of land and set to work planting the area with native trees and shrubs. The idea was relatively simple but its execution was far from that. In 1995 the Wildwood Group was formed and joined with various other woodland schemes to form Borders Forest Trust. When the possibility of buying the Carrifran valley between St. Mary’s Loch and Moffat came about the group realised that they had found the ideal site. The valley was bare except for a very few places where herbivores had been unable to reach the vegetation. It also had a wide range of altitude which would supply a variety of different habitats.
Planting started on a cold 1st January 2000 with a group of hardy volunteers. It was an exciting and heady day, the start of a project that will take many decades to realise. However, after only 10 years the valley is changing. Already, in the areas first planted, natural regeneration is taking place and through the efforts of many people, both volunteers and contractors, about half a million trees have been planted.
One of the most exciting things about the project has been in involvement of so many individuals both in the raising of the funds for the original purchase (80% from private donations and 20% from Trusts) and in the practical volunteering of people on site and of professionals freely giving their time and experience. There has also been considerable support by way of grants from a number of bodies without which the project would not be where it is today.
To celebrate this 10th birthday of the Wildwood at Carrifran, Myrtle and Philip Ashmole have written a book telling the story of the project from its inception, available from Broughton Village Store. It is a good read and you may even be inspired to come and help on a volunteer day.
More information can be had online at www.bordersforesttrust.org.