The Glenshesk Project.
Ranger Gerard McCaughan
Since I started supplementary feeding the red squirrels I was aware that my feeding was short term. What I needed to do was plan for the future. Last winter I noticed the number of trees that were coped by the storms was having an effect on the plantations that I visit regularly. If things continued, the local reds will be totally reliant on my feeding. What I needed in the Glen was to replace the fallen trees. During my travels I had talked to a number of landowners who had woodlands that could be improved for the reds by the planting of suitable trees. One landowner was very interested and offered a section of woodland for my project. The site,” The Curragh”, about 2 acres, at present is mixed woodland with a large area of bracken. Not far from the Curragh are two sites that are very important to my reds. The main one at the “Big Bridge” was planted about 100 years ago. These larch are starting to thin out with every storm. The other beside “The Inlet” is Scott Pine and is about 90 years old, planted by my Grandfather and his brothers. Between these two areas is “Darragh” which is natural woodland with plenty of Hazel.
I approached Alan Morrow, DARD regarding my plans. He gave the go ahead and then the serious planning began. With considerable help from the Heart of the Glens Landscape Partnership Scheme my plans are taking shape. I am leaving all the existing trees and hazel bushes. The planting will be 80% Scott Pine, and a mix of Wild Cherry, Crab Apple, Oak and Holly, all red squirrel friendly trees. There is a spring at the bottom of the area which I am including in my plans. I hope to plant some willows here.
The LPS and Woodland Trust are supporting the Project.
The Curragh Part 2
We got the trees planted, all 1270 odd trees. The Contractor arrived one wintery morning, with a slight scattering of snow on the ground. I met them and having discussed the layout of the site I let them get on with it. We have the Scots Pine on the upper slopes of the site. Along the road we have a line of Oak trees with a few Beeches placed to provide a variation of foliage throughout the year. The rest of the site is a mixture of Wild Cherry, Crab Apple, Rowan, Willow, Birch and a few Dog roses scattered about to provide rose hips.
I also have a place set aside to plant a Coast Redwood. The Coast Redwood is the world’s tallest tree. This tree plus others were donated to the group as well as two Irish Yews. The Redwood is in my garden at present until it gets to a suitable size to go out. Group members have put bamboo rods and tree guards around most of the trees. When I was last looking at them I did notice that some of them have started to develop leaves, spring is here.
Group members will be meeting a few times each year to remove grass and other growth from around the growing trees. This will give them a good start and we should see some fruit being produced in about 10 years. This will be of great benefit to our local reds. Once the Scotts Pine start to produce cones they will provide food for at least 100 years.
We in the Glens Red Squirrel group are extremely gratefully to Richard Mc Caughan for allowing us to plant these trees for the Red Squirrels of the future.
Gerard Mc Caughan