Today’s paintings – a beautiful Scots Pine at River Tweed near Peebles, and forget me nots in a sycamore grove in Kelso. These were a joy to paint, especially the river and pine.
You can somehow sense, looking at these trees, that the Scots Pine is native to Scottish Forests (hence the name!) and that Sycamores are a later addition. Although sycamores have been around for about 600 years, the Scots Pine goes back to ice-age times. Both are beautiful, as all trees are, but sadly the Borders has very few areas of native wild forest, in comparison to the rest of Scotland. Partly because the landscape is lowland and fertile, so farming practices have almost completely changed the original forests, save for a few pockets here and there.
The Borders Forest Trust (along with many other forest/woodland trusts across the UK) are changing this by re-introducing native plants and tree saplings so that the original diversity will eventually return. Its a fascinating process which can quite radically alter the eco-system for the better.
The original champions of Scotland’s wild forests were H.M. Steven and A. Carlisle, who in 1959 created an inventory of native plants as they were concerned at the loss of the original ecosystem, and its effect on landscape.
Their work was followed up by Finlay Macrae, who was seen as an eccentric at the time; a bit of a hippy probably. In fact back then re-introducing native plants and trees was seen as regressive or anti progress, but McCray, who worked for the Forestry Commission, persevered and began re-planting in Glen Affric, which had large areas of native Scots Pine forest. This was often at odds with Forestry Commission policy.
Nowadays though, the landscape of Scotland is slowly, gradually being brought back to its original beauty and diversity. The Borders Forest Trust have several projects on the go near Talla Reservoir, the Devil’s Beeftub and Carrifran Wildwood.
If you’re interested in these projects throughout Scotland, I highly recommend the excellent series by Dr. Iain Stewart – ‘Making Scotland’s Landscape’. I’ve attached the first episode and the next four can be found on You Tube. I learned most of what I know about Scotland’s forests from this wonderful and moving series!