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RSPB Double Woodland

One of Britain?s last remaining swathes of ancient woodland is to be doubled in size thanks to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds…

Member donations have allowed the RSPB to buy a 966-acre hill farm, which sits right next door to its existing Wood of Cree reserve in Dumfries and Galloway. A quarter of a million trees will be planted on Barclye Farm in the coming years, helping nature to reclaim the land and expanding a scarce and beautiful woodland habitat. The Wood of Cree is already wildlife treasure, with flower-rich meadows and open glades, that is a paradise for all types of rare species.

A remnant of the great oak woods that once dominated the area, the Wood of Cree nature reserve is breathtakingly beautiful, particularly in springtime, when swathes of bluebells carpet the forest floor. It plays host to an important population of red squirrel, and is particularly noted for birds like the wood warbler, grasshopper warbler, redstart and pied flycatcher. It is also one of the best places in Scotland to see willow tit at the edge of its northern range.The UK is one of the least wooded countries in Europe having gradually lost most of its trees over thousands of years. Scotland retains just 1 per cent of its ancient woods and most of these are unprotected from the demands for more roads, airports, housing and electricity pylons.

During the last 60 years 40% of upland oak woods have disappeared, been eroded by over grazing or destroyed by road building, quarrying and conifer plantations. RSPB Scotland believes action needs to be taken to address this great loss to our landscape and to biodiversity. There are very few ancient oaks left on the ground at Barclye Farm, and the soil is of far higher quality than that at Wood of Cree, so RSPB is confident that woodland expansion will occur naturally, although we will be doing extensive planting and other work to accelerate this process over the next few years.

Although the woods would eventually regenerate naturally, the RSPB will manage and plant some 250,000 native seedlings of oak, downy birch, ash, alder and willow, accelerating the process over the next century. This will create around 670 acres of new woodland and, through sensitive management, significantly extend precious habitat for populations of threatened woodland birds like the black grouse. It will also create a larger continuous complex of native woodland up the Cree Valley. This will help to fulfil the vision of the Cree Valley Community Woodland Trust, which was set up 8 years ago to take forward native woodland expansion in the area, and of which RSPB is a member.Financial support has also been offered by energy company BP through the Scottish Forest Alliance – a unique collaboration between BP, Forestry Commission Scotland, Woodland Trust Scotland and RSPB Scotland.

Pam Pumphrey, the chair of RSPB’s Scottish Committee, who lives close to the Wood of Cree, said: ‘The Wood of Cree is a place of exceptional beauty – an ever changing patchwork of mature woodland, open glades, mossy hollows, craggy nooks and knolls leading down to the River Cree. The acquisition of Barclye Farm is a marvellous extension to the Cree Valley woodland, and will allow visitors to walk uninterrupted for 18 kilometres through deciduous forest. It’s a splendid addition, both for people and wildlife, and will support rare and threatened species such as the black grouse. I am particularly pleased that it will involve wood and scrub pasture which is scarce in many parts of the UK and has been a traditional feature of Dumfries and Galloway, so it is nice that we are continuing the tradition here.’The RSPB also plans to re-establish the natural flood plain along the River Cree to help create areas of wetland that will benefit breeding wading species including oystercatcher, lapwing and curlew – as well as the otter. Grazing livestock would help to keep these areas in optimum condition for breeding waders, and help prevent scrub from encroaching.

Gordon Harvey, senior environmental advisor at BP, said: ‘In its unique collaboration through the Scottish Forest Alliance during the past six years, BP has shown its commitment to recreating vast areas of native woodland. Just short of three million trees have been planted or established by natural regeneration already from an expected total of nearly seven million. We are absolutely delighted to help with extending the Wood of Cree, which gives us our first SFA site in the South of Scotland.’BP, through the Scottish Forest Alliance (SFA), has offered significant financial support for forest regeneration work at Wood of Cree, subject to contract. The SFA, now in its sixth year, aims to recreate vast areas of native woodland over the next 200 years at 12 sites in Scotland. As at the end of 2005, 2,801,260 trees had been planted or established by natural regeneration and 45,750 metres of paths had been created in a project that has provided more than 100 man years of direct employment. Visitors to the woodland sites where work is being carried out stood at 567,656. To date, BP’s £5.6m contribution to the Scottish Forest Alliance has enabled the Alliance members to attract additional match funding of £8.5m. Match funding is eventually expected to result in a total spend of £30m in delivering the SFA vision.

4th July 2014