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Nature notes from North Glen

February 15, 1994

Snow much of the day. Ground already frozen from yesterday, wind from slightly south of east. Hornbeams showing tiny bit of bud-opening, leaf just beginning to unfold on terminal bud on more than one tree. Cherry buds swelling, willow catkins showing, some red willows seem to be shooting. Snow measured 18mm on treehouse outcrop. It began as huge chips of frozen foam travelling sideways much more than downwards - thistledown. Later small balls like miniature hailstones dropping almost straight down in near calm. Crescent moon visible around 7PM, all the fields covered in white. Palnackie and its port glowing sodium yellow, lyart only lit from within bar moonshine. Rabbit tracks reveal only two roads leading through pond area fence. Another wire between bottom two should secure the area. Does electric fence deter cats, I wonder?

There is space for a few ash and birch on the bank south of the cherries below the old treehouse. Perhaps also a couple of ash in the gorse at the upper north end.

Light spills from the office window onto the snowy yard.

February 28, 1994

Green buds on the maples for a week now, snow last weekend, but washed away by Sunday (yesterday) evening. Birdsong at full volume, frogspawn in old pond - looks like two kinds
March 1 1994

Frogspawn in upper pond! Looks good, black/clear mass in southeast corner. moved a wee (10 oz) sample of spawn from lowest old pond to second highest (claybased) pond. While chatting over the hedge with Cuttle, I saw a sparrowhawk come down over the gorse patch in the field above the road, straight towards the back of his head, until spotting us at the last moment and veering off sharply towards Kippford. The birds feeding sang the alarm, but perhaps a bit late. I wouldn't have seen it but for chance (or did I sense the earliest warning?)

Algae seem to be becoming active - lots of fresh green leafy things on the move, no pondweed detected yet. Should pull grass from the poor soil between the clay pond and the next lower one to see what else grows (give the wee leafies a hand) More willow shoots noted - no real sign of grazing.

March 6th, 1994

Willows further advanced, one alder with long male catkins in profusion, cherries' buds more swollen, frogspawn in highest of old pond group, rabbits are frequenting the poor soil area between the old and new ponds (no sign of the heather cuttings taking). Marsh marigolds showing good leaf development, honeysuckle out all over the place, pine buds are pretty swollen on the strongest trees. Iris showing leaf growth, wild garlic leaf ~150mm. I have seen swimming insects in the upper pond. Bluebell leaftips showing through in the woodlands.

March 7th, 1994

Another alder with shorter catkins noted, also long-tailed tits in the Bank woodland above lower pond and later in the day on the southern end of the bank in families.

March 8th, 1994

Wet rain in the morning - while feeding the sheep, noticed a pair of ducks in the area between new ponds and old. While I watched, they took flight (me thinking, "Damn, they've somehow seen me!") but only to land in top pond and swim to north end. Seemed to be investigating the pond. About 30min later, I walked quietly down the road to see if I could get a better look without disturbing them, but no sign of them from the road. There seems to be a possibility of a nest site in that north corner. From the distance observed, they were not shelduck (sexes unlike) and seemed to have a lot of brownish colour.

March 10, 1994

Good green on maple buds. Bright sunshine follows yesterday's stormy weather (windy downpour with sleet/snow and rainbows) A patch of frogspawn has appeared in claybase pond, the one I moved there is still present. Alder catkins on first noted tree lovely and open.

March 11th, 1994

Larch buds noted, showing green tips.

March 12th, 1994

Oak buds swelling, cherries very swollen and green. Some willows have well-developed catkins. Visited Screel and borrowed a few trees - hemlock, douglas fir, lodgepole pine, larch. Planted all but pines round about, not sure where to put the pines. Sun in morning, wind rising later with eventually cold rain.
March 28th, 1994

Tadpoles hatched about 5-6 days ago; black, wriggling mass, each one (5-8mm long) rather flat, reminiscent of Escher's flatworms. Alder budburst has been apparent on lower branches for a few days on a few trees, now much more widespread. Friday and Saturday (25th/26th) warm, sunny and dry, Sunday driving rain in the afternoon, but high scattered cloud in full-moon sky by midnight. Lots of leaves on willows, but not all opened yet, and some species only swelling catkin buds. Maples all showing green-tipped buds, some cherries have burst their buds, almost all are fat and green. larches almost all showing green tips and a few have flowers out. Lots of swollen pine buds, birch buds, tiny white spots showing blackthorn flowers on the way. Hawthorn buds have been profuse for a week or more, and now a number are well burst, but no leaves fully open - lots of green showing, though. Alder and honeysuckle leaves emergent. The radio says we're moving towards the "wettest March this century!"

The sheep are looking healthy, and there seems to be plenty of grass growing. In the largest pond, the plant from Barlocco shore is showing intention of flowering, and the iris are putting on strong green leaves, lots of green leafy stuff in the water (mostly underwater). The water grass from screel pond seems to have taken, as has the pink-tipped stuff from MacIntosh's pond. The stoloniferous grass which seems native to the pond is doing well, but will need watching, lest it take over. There seems to be a small patch of duckweed by the island. Algae is everywhere, but not totally smothering, and the canadian pondweed is active again (for about 2 weeks, now). marsh marigolds have good leaf development in both varieties.

The transplanted trees from Screel seem to be doing OK, with the exception of one douglas fir on the chickenhouse bank which seems to be suffering windburn. The red cedars from Woodland improvement have also seemingly suffered from wind/frost, not to mention being very attractive to bunnies. Char's chestnut trees may make it this year, thanks to protection.

Heard a woodpecker drumming a couple of days ago on the bank, possibly on the dead ash tree; lots of other birdsong. Later today, heard the woodpecker again, this time apparently on the Rock. Rowans are burst. "Eddie's White Wonder" cornus planted today. First tips of polygonum showing.....

April 15th, 1994

Many more willows have shown signs of life, and the hawthorns are all showing, some quite well on, but not as much as those in the midlands. One cherry tree has blossom in its tube; the others are all leafy, but the mature ones in the 'newfield' haven't burst yet. Lots of blackthorn flower buds, but none open. Pines are stretching, moreso the ones in tubes, but also the un-protected ones down by the pond. No sign of waterlily yet, but the marsh marigolds are blooming. Beautiful days with wind from the north, but not cold at all, mostly clear skies, fluffy cloud. Maple trees showing budburst inside tubes, very swollen outside. I think a blackbird is nesting on the back wall of the kitchen. Just had a visit from a sparrowhawk in the backyard.

April 24th, 1994

Marsh marigolds well into bloom, alder leaves well out, most of the hawthorn too! Blackthorn is nearly in full flower. Two swallows at noon - pine buds some 8-10cm stretched (in tubes) birch buds mostly burst, cherries just short of bloom (some in bloom locally). Skylark (?) today in pond area, and the apple tree (James Grieve) has lovely pink buds.

April 27th, 1994

First blue spikes of bluebells in the woods. Most birches budburst, and larches well out; more swallows about.

May 3rd, 1994

Beeches around the pond are bursting. Lots of white flowers, especially on the island; pine buds in the open are lengthening now. All the rowans in tubes have opened. Waterlily leaves have reached the surface, and the sycamores are bursting. Virtually all the hawthorns are full out, and there is blossom on the wild plum trees. The beech hedge has leaf on a few of the plants. Buds are opening on the wee spruce trees on the Rock, and the mountain pine is stretching its buds. Blackthorn flower is profuse, and there are some leaves. Char heard the cuckoo a few days ago, and the roadside/dykeside ferns were beginning to unfurl last week. Grass first out on 28 April. Had to repair some cattle damage on the 29th, a few tubes pushed over, looks like a bit more attention needed this afternoon. Of course, no sign of the bracken yet.

May 12th, 1994

Beeches all out, bar a very few; ash and oak out together, with oak very slightly in the lead. In tubes, many oak leaves out and green, the rest bursting. Waterlily bud climbing towards the surface; lots of green pond plants, algae seem to be not too swift. Willow cuttings from last year have almost all got life and leaf. Bracken has been poking up a little, and the ferns are well on their way (12-14" high). Blackthorn flower is mostly past, but the cherries in the newfield and all round the countryside are in full glory. Pines in tubes have shoots 8-10" long for most of them, 3-4" on the un-protected ones; no sign of enlargement on the lodgepole pines from Screel.

On the 11th beat up the few failures from last winter with the last of the rootrainer ash trees, also a couple sharing tubes with doubtful red cedars. They look OK, but we have had a week or more of dry weather, and they need water soon. Kerb seems to have worked very well, no grass growing around trees. Bluebells still a bit short of full display, apple tree showing good blossom, and more coming. The big crabapple is in leaf, the others just on the verge of it. The birds might be slowing on peanut consumption, but still getting through the sunflower seeds at a tremendous pace.

May 24, 1994

Since pen last put to paper, there has been much development. Hawthorn flowers first noted while clearing Cocklehaen path (22 May). Beeches long in full leaf, pines now 30cm+ bud extensions (in tubes), 15-20cm in the open. Cherry flowering past the best, but crabapple just beginning with a wide variation between trees. Blackbird on nest by oxygen cylinders has got a lot of 'cheeping' under her this morning. The shelduck are flying in formation - it's a beautiful day! Ash trees are leafing, but, as usual, very slowly. The oaks are all out, but the leaves have still to enlarge to fill the canopy. Some oaks at the village end of the pond seem to have been affected by a fungus or mould, and I changed 13 from their secondhand square tubes to acorn gro-cones salvaged from beeches which, by the way, seem mostly to have recovered from their mould attack last summer. The vast majority of last winter's plantings (92/93) are up and out of their tubes. This winter's rowans are almost all out of the top of their quills, as well as one hawthorn and a number of birch. The birds are taking feed at pretty much the same rate - more noticably greenfinches. I saw a woodpecker (great spotted?) in the glen, just above the millpond.

No waterlily flower bud to be seen, though I thought I saw one underwater a few days ago. Leaves are up, though. The grass/reed from screel pond has seed heads and there is much good vegetation. Pond level has been falling. Number 3 is dry, number 1 is at -11cm, after some time at -7 or -8. Minimum overflow level seems to be between -8 & -10. Lowest pond is virtually dry, bar a small pool in it's clay area. The others are OK, but there is no flow reaching the lowest. Iris leaves are very healthy, but no sign of flower intentions. It may soon be time for scythe work on thistles/nettles/bracken, the last a meter high in places, but a long way from closed canopy yet anywhere I've seen. Bluebells are excellent everywhere, possibly at their peak.

June 2nd, 1994

Main pond at -20cm; everything lush, but no water.

June 3rd/4th, 1994

Showers - cleaned out the drain from the road so as to catch all the runoff for the ponds. The blackbird's nest is empty! The horse has taken the tops off four trees (birches and cherries), ~1cm diameter at break.

June 6th, 1994

Strung electric fence polywire around tree groups in front field, not electrified and only one strand around the top of the plastic posts. Iris showing yellow tip about to flower. Lilypads good and larger than last year. two buds on surface. Flocks of starlings feeding in field areas (dung?)

June 17th, 1994

Top pond is down to -30cm; of the old ponds, only the middle one has any water. The pines are still shooting, but showing the beginnings of new buds. Oaks are OK, some showing signs of drought stress.

September 13, 1994

Long time, no notes! The top pond is back to -10cm and overflowing, after 3-4 weeks moving from -25/-30 (lowest perhaps -35?), number 3 was leaking audibly from the base of its outpipe, so I stomped it firmly around the pipe to see what happens. Virtually all the oaks on the place bar perhaps ten are up and out of their tubes; some are seven feet tall! All the birch are up and out, averaging 7 to 8 foot to perhaps 10, alders to 10-12 feet. The willows are showing more than a meter in general, some to 1.5m. Most thistles topped before flowering, but not in chickenhouse rough. Plateau nettle/thistle bed scythed in early August, part of it flymowed. Bracken laid down round rough trees from mid-July to early August.

While Char and I were in France, Tom saw 7 ducks on the top pond - it appears that they nested on the island, and I didn't even notice. I had seen the occasional single adult get up and fly off, both around the pond and in the top part of newfield, but never thought of the island - stupid! Most of the pines are doing well, the best around 60cm growth, but not all. Lost most of the red cedars on the lower north corner. They are not yet thriving anywhere, but patience (and perhaps a little beating up and protection with wire mesh) may be rewarded. Perhaps interplant with birches and one or two oaks in the chickenhouse rough? Dockens bloomed in profusion (without much resistance from myself) in the disturbed soil areas (pond spoil). Un-disturbed former grazed areas mostly grass with a few thistles (most of which got deflowered!) If the willows and beeches and pines were protected, the area could be grazed again (no horse!) and the dockens would be controlled. The birds are eating well, still five swallows (at least) in the sky this afternoon. The second brood are all out of the nest in the workshop; the first flew ~ Sept 1st, returned to nest and were being fed in the nest around September 7th.

October 26th, 1994

Returned from Tallahassee on the 13th to find top pond at -21cm. Leaves just beginning to colour. All is still very well; over the past fortnight there has been mostly good weather, but with a goodly amount of heavy showers (mostly at night!). In virtually one overnight, the big pond went from -19 to -10, and is now steadily overflowingat about -9. All ponds are at overflow, except the lowest, which is rising after some remedial work yesterday. I saw two fledgling swallows today, perching on the wire in the backyard. Fieldfares a few days ago, lots of buzzards. The feeding stations are catering for coal, great, and blue tits in profusion, a few chaffinches, and a few greenfinches, and a couple of robins. A pair of wrens are visiting the kitchen window feeder, but more to investigate it than to take food. One siskin spotted this morning in the long building. Have been feeding the tups and ewes since last week. Hedges clipped on the 24th. Blackbirds and song thrushes about. The autumn colours are probably a bit past their peak now, but still gorgeous. Ashes mostly stripped bare, elms looking beautiful, birches a bit threadbare, young oaks still green, with cherries bright russet. Kirkennan, Barnbarroch, and Kippford/Gibbs House all resplendent. Hawthorn bushes often completely covered in bright red, some already showing a bit of bird stripping. Good supply of sloes, and the maples and hornbeams are in good colour.

March 5th, 1995

Long time, no Write! For the past months the upper ponds have been full and overflowing, the upper one seeming to have stabilised at -4cm or so. The pond which takes its overflow seems to have stopped leaking as much and its overflow has stopped up to such an extent that it has filled to overflow its downhill bank on a couple of occasions. The Canadian pondweed has been green all winter, and the algae, though present, is far from troublesome. There is duckweed, mostly along the western edge, though no sign of ducks as yet this year. It is possible the water level is just too high to make the island attractive.

Marsh Marigolds, both varieties are well leafed, and the wild garlic is 15cm high and nice and thickly clumped. the annuals on the wier between ponds two and three are greening up, and the pink-tipped grass from Mackintosh is shooting. The weeping willow over Rosie's grave looks like this is going to be the year it gets moving. Frogspawn in most ponds, but it may have suffered from the frost. it began to appear about two weeks ago. I saw a heron in the old pond just about the same time, but not since. In the rock wood, the bluebells have been showing green tips for a couple of weeks or more.

Birds have been eating steadily, the tits continuously, the finches seeming to absent themselves from pre-christmas until reappearing gradually over February, Chaffinches moreso than greenfinches, but both back now in goodly numbers. Also regularily seen are robins, hedge sparrows(?), occasional wrens, though not apparently taking feed, Siskins notably absent so far. The magpies seem to keep their distance, and though seen regularily to the front of the house, they rarely come into the backyard. In the rock wood there are goldcrests, and of course pheasants. Blackbird at pondside station feeds on ground within 2 yards of me, and on several occasions I have had a yearling Pheasant cock for company.

On the first occasion, I was refilling the peanut feeders and he flew in, alighting in the grass in the fringe of the pond, not seeming to be bothered by wet feet and breast, in fact effectively sitting like a duck for a moment, before climbing out and nonchalantly beginning to feed on the ground within 2-3 yards of my feet. I very slowly reached into the peanut pocket and tossed a couple towards him. He took them and split them on the second or third attempt with his beak. Seemed to like them. So does the blackbird, but he takes one and goes off with it, presumably to work on it in relative security of the hedgerow.

I have been putting out poultry corn from below the old treehouse down to the northwest corner, at first with pheasants in mind, having noticed a group of both sexes in the south end of the rock wood. Everything disappears within 24 hours, and I have seen song thrushes, chaffinches, blackbirds, rabbits(?), in these areas, but not too much evidence of crows or pigeons. No doubt a few rodents are also taking advantage of the bonanza, but that should feed the owls. Have not noticed any sign of rats, but that doesn't mean they ain't around!

Did see a reed bunting the other day, north of the big pond, perching in a beech. Woodpecker heard frequently from about two weeks ago, but not recently, since the weather has turned less springlike. February was very mild, and almost everything is well advanced in the bud-swelling stakes. This morning, though, I noticed green larch buds on the ground at the top of the rockface in the backyard. There has been a bit of hard frost in the past few days, and snow and wind, though the snow only lay for 24 hours or so.

Now a bit milder, but windy, and occasional icy/sleety blusters. Outstanding in the bud stakes are the mature rowans, young cherries, and some beeches, the alders have been flowering for as much as three weeks, oak, pine, birch, hornbeam, willow (contorted one with some burst), maple and ash all showing vitality. Saw the first hawthorn leaves two days ago on one of Alice's seedlings in the hedgerow opposite the treehouse. Much of the blackthorn is showing white points on its flowerbuds. Hornbeams again have been showing the tiniest bit of unfurling on terminal buds for more than two weeks.

The sheep are due to start lambing in a couple of days, but no obvious udders yet. Some of them are quite broad abeam, though, and particularily the youngest, who is also untried at motherhood. I sowed some dogwood seeds that Bob & the kids gathered in the Autumn, some around the bases of last year's purchased pair and some in fishbox seedbed outside workshop backdoor. Have also been putting a few sunflower seeds into molehills in the ungrazed areas. Have modified most of the tubes round pines to improve ventillation, shortening the long ones and leaving a gap at the bottom or cutting a hole ~15cm up. Had to put some protection on the ones by the pond, as the rabbits had demolished almost all but the main stems which are all showing really fat buds.

Have lost the majority of last winter's holly, either to rabbits or rodents, but there are a good few which seem to be likely to do well enough (and a few still alive, but none too strong, a couple on the roadside with one or no leaves, but what might be called a sturdy stem). Intention is to do a bit of chickenwire work. Brashwood has done a brilliant job of protecting a couple under the treehouse, and there are a good few doing OK in the area near Tom's gate. Perhaps a bit more brashwood work all round would be a good idea. About half the Red Cedars seem to be likely to make it and do well, but it'll obviously be a couple of years before they really find their feet. Fortunately there are no losses among the ones along the Northeast of the long building and its yard, and no unbearable variations in vigour.

I put out 15 grand firs and four guelder rose which were donated by the alba trees rep, these before christmas, and all seem to be OK. The firs are in three lots; near the new stile, bottom southeast corner, and chickenhouse bank. Those near the stile replace failed scots pines, and will add variety to the shelterbelt. A couple of the viburnum went into the roadside and a couple to the north of the gallery.

April 7th, 1995

Everything is bursting! Hawthorn just coming into leaf, although the entire hedge is green at the bottom of the Long Wood. Have been seeing blackthporn flowers for a few days mow, and there are many cherry leaf buds opening. The Maples are fit to burst and the Alders have already begun. Many willows, including the weeper have good amounts of leaf out. I planted about a dozen sticks of basket willow which Chris Norman sent me about a week ago or so. We have had three lambs only, one born dead to Tessa's daughter and two strapping males to her granddaughter (the virgin!).

Have only seen a few siskins this year, and only in the last couple of weeks, but have also seen what appears to be a mealy redpoll, but without seeing any red on top of its head, probably more than one of them, but can't be sure... The pheasants are doing well, as are all the birds, and we don't seem to be bothered by the crows, magpies, pigeons yet, nor any rats. Shelduck are flying formation, there are cormorants down by the river sometimes, and we had a lot of black-headed gulls around for a while, but they seem to have moved on for the moment. plenty of other gulls, curlews, and the odd oystercatcher. Woodpecker sometimes heard, but not seen, song thrush seen in the backyard, and by the old treehouse, where there a lot of birds who visit the corn I put down for the pheasants.

Yesterday was lovely and warm, and the marsh marigold flowers opened in the afternoon. Today was the same, if a bit windier, and has brought everything out even more. Sadly, there is no sign of a second lot of frogspawn, and I haven't seen any sign of life from the first lot, which got rather badly frosted. There was a buzzard family having a nice time in the sky this afternoon, real formation flying at times! Green things in the ponds are doing well, including algae and a good amount of duckweed, but if the ducks are in residence, they are keeping their heads well down 'cause I ain't seen 'em. All ponds are full, but there hasn't been a lot of rain recently, and the top one is at ~ -8 or -9cm with very little overflow. The gnomes seem to have wandered off but will perhaps reappear somewhere else in due course...

The grass has begun to grow and so have the nettles. No flowers yet on the wild garlic, but good lush greenery. Bluebell leaves 10cm at most, but lots of them. Larches in flower and showing varying amounts of green, the most developed ones probably have 10-12mm of leaf out, others still at the green tip stage; pines swelling, but not lengthening yet Cotoneasters have leaves which are enlarging, and still carry fruit from last year. Forsythia has green buds 7-8mm long, and the shrubs along the long building have decided (mostly) that this is going to be their year. There is a lot of moss in the grass on the side of the driveway. No sign yet of flower buds on the apple trees, plenty of buds on sycamores and birches will be out any day now. The tree at the foot of the drive to Goldilea (I think it's some kind of willow) has a gorgeously orange hazy glow. and the whole world is beautiful!

April 19th, 1995

First swallows spotted on the 17th by Tom and confirmed by Char yesterday. I saw my first today, flying over the field in front of the house. Nice to see friends returning. All is popping, lots of leaf everywhere, bluebells began a few days back, and there are large sweeps of blackthorn flower all around the place. Most of the cherries have opened leaves, and quite a few have flowers just about to open. The very first oak bud has a tiny bit of green peeking out, and the pine buds have extended as much as a couple of inches on a number of trees. The basket willows which were only just stuck in the ground a couple of weeks ago have already begun to shoot, though only a half-inch or so. No real rain for quite a while, though there was a drizzle a few days ago, and snow flurries accentuate the generally bright sunny weather with beautiful fluffy white clouds sidelit against darker background. The ponds are dropping a bit, the top one is now at -11cm. The wild garlic has its first flowers open, and there are a couple of new individual plants, the furthest is 4 yards from the original clumps. Most of the willow cuttings from two years ago are doing really well and have begun to leaf out. Soon it will be getting dense down there.

Siskins are back in reasonable numbers, and visiting the treehouse quite boldly. Tom has a nice round tabletop up there made from the end of a five foot diameter cable spool, and they take seed from that within a couple of yards of folk in conversation. All the other birds are doing well, and there is a pheasant cock with a bad leg or foot who hops around, but seems able enough to survive. Saw a fox yesterday, with pip following at some distance. Seen from above, she seemed to glide through the wood so swiftly and silently I thought at first it might be a low flying bird. There was no sound at all, then came pip, not barking, but still comparatively crashing through the woods, losing the scent trail, finding it, but the fox was in no danger. Shelduck are doing their formation exercises every morning, and yesterday I saw a pheasant flying low crowing, with a large buzzard fifteen yards behind. Don't know if it was after the pheasant or something else, but the fuss put up a half-dozen flock of shelduck, all of this in the 'newfield'. Buzz swung round and damn near buzzed me, as I was trying to repair the waterpipe - he/she was beautifully marked, and I got a good look as she veered off.

April 26th 1995

More of everything happening. Oak buds fit to burst; I noted one beech tree with leaves opening on the very top branches in the Dalbeattie town wood, and we have blossom on the wild cherries, profuse blossom on the sloe/blackthorn, willows out everywhere, plum blossom, sycamores opening, birches well leafed, warm sunny weather in the main, in fact we could use a bit of rain! The house is being cleaned and painted (exterior), and the gallery has been transformed by Tom & Kristine. The buzzards are playing in the air currents, and there are swallows all round. Long-tailed tits noted down by lowest pond, seem to be working for insects on the sycamore branches. I disturbed a sitting duck last evening in the Dalbeattie wood. She was brooding an even dozen eggs, and I left immediately, so she could return without too much delay. At North Glen we seem to be catering for the cripples, when it comes to pheasants: there is one with only one good leg, one with a very stubby tail (who chopped it?), a hen with a limp, though she has a clutch of eggs she is tending. Perhaps she will hatch a whole brood of limpers... "send me your crippled masses, yearning to eat free..."

Tom has at least one mouse in residence thirty feet up. The little devil has made a nest in an old croquet box he has been using as storage. It has amassed a supply of sunflower seeds and peanuts stolen from the bird feeding points, and Tom regards it almost as a pet. The birds who visit the treehouse are very tame, though not yet coming to hand. The most nonchalant are the siskins, who hardly bother to notice if you approach while they feed hanging upside down on a net bag of peanuts.

15, 16, 17 May 1995

Mayday was oakbud day, and they have been opening steadily, if slowly ever since. The ash are a bit further back, and at this writing the beech are still not quite complete, with a few trees just opening. Have seen one duck at the pond a few days ago and a pair this morning. I am tossing a handful of corn onto the island - can't do any harm. Pond is at -25 cm, and has been below -20 for a fortnight or more.

May has been dry as usual until a few days ago, but now we have had a couple of showery days, perhaps an inch of rainfall in total. The weather has been cool after a really warm spell. it hasn't been above 12 degrees in at least two weeks, and there has been snow on the hilltops a couple of times and frost in the mornings. Peanut consumption is at an all-time high, with the feeders at the pond taking 12-15cm each daily, and the backyard ones about 8cm each. Most in evidence are siskins and greenfinches, with blackbirds, tits, chaffinches, and the rest. Woodpecker heard fairly often, but no Cuckoo yet (heard one on May 7th/8th at Wilton)

The one-legged pheasant is still on the go, and the one with shortened tailfeathers, and quite a few others, hens as well, clucking. There was a collared dove (?) visiting the pond feeding area, and a solitary crow has been in evidence for months, perching atop the thorn at the eastern edge of the pasture by the original ponds while I am in evidence, gliding down for a bit of corn when I've got back up to the farmyard.

July 25, 1995

Today saw a phenomenon noted before: from below the Lyart Craig, and possibly further towards Palnackie to the edge of the Tornat wood, the hillside was crowded with black-headed gulls, young and old, perhaps three quarters of them swirling relatively low and the remainder hopping about, picking flying ants from the grass and rocks. It seems the gulls know the ants are emerging and assemble for the feast.
They are not noisy, but the entire side of the slope is very busy.

July 26, 1995

This morning there is no sign of gulls; it is going to be very hot and humid, forcast 29 degrees. There were three ducks on the pond this morning.

August 1995

Sam Thornely wants to come and live in a treehouse in our woods. He and Tom built the highest platform yet with a big span about fifty yards to the south of Tom's complex. It is very exposed to the south, having no evergreen cover and therefore lots of summer sun. Might be interesting in the winter, though who knows what he might build lower down.

September 29, 1995

Reforesting Scotland are having their annual gathering at Laurieston Hall. Alyne, who is acting as local contact and conference organiser, suggested that the 'buildings in the forest' group might like to visit the treehouse. Tom & I thought perhaps a half-dozen folk might turn up, but there were twenty five up his treehouse at the same time. A small board snapped, and the platform settled two inches, unsettling some folk, but it was a success. Five or six also made the climb up to Sam's platform.

The gathering was great fun. Tim turned up, and it was so good to see him, apparently nearly fully recovered from cancer, we both stayed up drinking until 5AM, and spent the next two days recovering. The sauna at Laurieston is the best I have been in, with a good heat and a whole cold pond to dive into.

I was trying to see if I could get help in getting the Tornat wood as a community wood for Palnackie. Donald McPhillimy was encouraging, and thought it might be possible to shake it loose from the Forestry Commission. The whole gathering was buzzing with anticipation of the announcement that the Millennium Forest for Scotland was goint to be approved for lottery funding to the tune of fifty million.

It looks like I am going to have to get involved in Millennium Forest projects, as there was great amazement that there were no proposals from the southwest, the most afforested area of Scotland. Perhaps this is the way to go for the Tornat Wood.

October/November 1995

We have had meetings and are working on Millennium Forest proposals.

December 1995

We have got Sam Thornely staying with us now, or rather he's put up a tipi up in the wood, to the south of Tom's treehouse. The upper platform may be developed when the warmer weather comes, but he is making a cozy home at ground level for the moment.

Tom & I have put up a large tipi on the old hayshed site out the northwest door of the workshop. It is a magnificent west view, and we have had two tables made from cable reel ends out there since summer. Sat fourteen down to dinner one summer evening. Now there is a huge tipi, virtually covering the entire flat area, about twenty three feet from polefoot to crossing point.

We put riverbed gravel down and one of Tom's copper fireplaces off-centre. Tom's biggest chandelier yet hangs in the centre, and we have decided to have firelight evenings on three nights, starting with the full moon.
We filled the place with lamps, some with bases made by Sam Barlow, and Joff, another Orchardton asset, is showing some of his metalwork, including an amazing rocking chair.

22 January 1996

Having returned home on the 21st, I find myself the recipient of a phone call saying the Millennium forest application needs A LOT OF WORK, or it'll founder. Karen seems now to be working for MFS trust, shepherding a group of about twenty applications under the oversight of John Hunt. While I was away, our application was put in with cash flow estimates running for ten years and amounting to over two million quid. We were informed that millennium funding only goes to 2000, or at best 2001/2. I began a rewrite of the application and the cashflows, using material provided ny mfst on disc: spreadsheets, notes and principles, guidelines. Karen provided constructive comment and advice. 'final' copy draft nearing readyness feb3/4 mfst must take package to Millennium Commission (MC) on 12th. Panic phone call from Karen on 7th. She had checked out everything at time of comment, except hadn't really looked at the cashflows. They were way out of line. It seems the current application is only for funding through end 97 (phase II). Nothing to run beyond that, except perhaps (?) revenue for nursery? Advice is that 'project management' secretarial/co-ordination should not exceed 5% of project costs. Also that there seems to be a notional limit of around100k from MFST, and 'they don't give more than 50%, and they don't like to give that.' I reworked, she reworked and sent me a copy of what she had done. 03 February 1996

Alyne and Andy Inglis, etc at parton, tornat, ...We discussed the application, of which all had had a copy. Andy had good words on the nature of 'volunteerism', and its relationship to provision of employment or lack thereof. Echoes of Bob's comments on Jimmy Carter's Habitat work.

Bob feels Habitat is giving away houses and thereby robbing construction workers of employment. He is scornful of 'sweat equity'. Andy's attitude shows no animosity, just caution in deciding goals, e.g. the provision of employment in communities as a brake on de-population. Andy advised that Forsyth would probably be glad to receive a letter regarding the Nithsdale Forest. 'He would probably find it welcome politically'.

Glimsed papers on Laggan and Rural Development Forestry Project (RDFP) Got Andy's addresses. He later sent me copies of papers via compuserve and post.
05 to 09 February 1996
We have had a lot of snow. had about 12-14inches at North Glen. Power off for 30 hours or so, absolutely beautiful, and too deep for the runner sledge. Made a toboggan with a linoleum bottom and did a nice lot of sledging, Lots of snow spray in the face, beard totally white with ice.

Gill Mallet staying. She did snow casting with gold & silver, and we repaired the kiln. She fired some snowcasts in lead crystal, most of which survived, but with internal separations and some cracks. Most of the cracks are self-terminating. Gill also took a lot of photographs. She was here for a fortnight, leaving Feb 13th - time well spent with two firings. The second firing lost two elements in the bottom, but from both firings we got very interesting pieces, many none the worse for being only soft edged.

11 February 1996
Time team program six, third series broadcast. We all trooped over to Kirkennan to see it on wide screen TV and, of course, to eat and drink a lot of good stuff. It looked OK, and they gave me the last word, and the last face in the closing shot.

16 February 1996

Gallery tipi blew down, all glass broken. West wind, not notably strong, but strong enough. Possible that tipi was pretty well loosened up, not well maintained over the last few weeks. Broke one of the tripod poles and fractured the sandstone ridge piece. Not too much other damage, a few small cuts in the canvas, a large slate at lower roof edge is damaged, but not badly. Got off lightly.

17 February 1996

Beverley Brown freelance journalist visited, and says she 'works for an interiors magazine, sometimes Scottish Field, and oh, also sometimes the Sun, but only the Scottish edition, not really national.' she is fun and takes a lot of snaps, and I take a couple from the crow's nest tree. Sam makes chapatis on the tipi fire, and more snaps from oak branches. A few days later, a local photographer, 'I used to work for the Galloway News', had been here before, taken pics of Tom for the Mail, took pics of Sam chopping wood, the Sun published one of Wigwam Sam and one of Treehouse Tom and misspelled our name. Also, it seems the treehouse is forty feet up in a giant oak.

25 February 1996

Borders Community Woodlands horse working from 11 AM. Sam & I met Godfrey at Dalbeattie car park 8:30. Godfrey drove. We went via Moffat and Selkirk/Gala and found Wooplaw relatively easily.

Approached across Axehead wood from the car park. Trees not very visible, not well advanced. Mine, I would say have done far more, and that puzzles me. Perhaps I didn't see all of Axhead. Charcoal burning in progress as we approached centre complex, comprising nursery adjoining boggy edge of conifer wood, charcoal burning area, well made up gravel path into wood with log structure open on one side with tin & transparent roof. Closable, but not oversecurely, with hanging panel doors.

Separate BBQ shed with instant coffee, tea, burgers veggie & meat, good folk, good crack. Met Willy McGhie, who turned up with Eoin Cox. They said John Hunt would be coming, and they'd introduce me. Tim Turned up with Maggi, good chat all round with walking about the woods, Willy leading a guided tour. Kids den-building in some windthrow, through edge of wood to policy beeches along fenceline adjoining good pasture.

Across pasture is Gullet wood, in a deep glade ringed by beeches with a burn running through the bottom, junipers on the steep opposite(east?) bank. Hide for watching Badgers, and at the bottom end, a bridge leading to a stone ring with reed thatched conical roof, topped with heather. Apparently this was built by Jools, one of SCW's assets. I think Godfrey referred to it as a crannog, but I'm not sure if that's right.

On the east bank above the gullet, they have planted a lot of birch. These have come on well. I reckon that puts them about two years ahead of my birches planted 92/3, no more. I didn't notice if there were other species in this area, perhaps two or three hectares? We returned to the centre, passing through some private estate land of which they have the management, although her ladyship's gardener keeps inserting rhodies, which are carefully protected, and no doubt watched for invasive behaviour.

There is at least one Specimen Sitka, a seed source for forestry purposes, quite a nice tree, probably climbable with a bit of rope as a girdle for the first few yards.

Back at the ranch, it was time for food. Godfrey has had a good chat with the charcoal burner, and both uf us have learned a lot, and got a great nudge towards an idea for working with young children. It involves burning twigs collected by the kids in a syrup tin, a few holes punched in the lid and set in the fire 5-10 minutes. You get drawing charcoal. Good stuff if you carefully pack the tin with willow, but the kids can draw without having to be choosy to begin with.

John Hunt turned up and we walked round across a long corduroy pathway, then past a felled clearing in the pines, and out to the road. Thence back to gullet, etc. Good crack. Got to see their pond dug just two winters. nice, and doesn't lie across the watercourse, rather beside it.

They want to establish woodland all the way down to the Tweed between Galashiels & Melrose, some five miles down the Aflan Water, which passes through 'Fairydean'. Wooplaw is between 750 and 1000ft, and about five miles west of Tim's place at Blainslie.

John was encouraging, says we must get our partnership funding together, thinks it's maybe a good idea, to try and get as many potential partners together round a table. Cautioned that it's good to know the politics. I feel terribly naive, but we gotta go with it, I guess.

Back at the ranch again, more coffee, watched the horses working a bit. it seemed mostly a show for a few cameras. Maggi introduced me to Lady Daphne, who hadn't been to the wood for some years. A game old lady, glad of the well made paths, not afraid of the horses, though Maggi was a bit, and I was careful enough to get well out of the way.

The wood is attractive, but has little other than conifers. These have been well used in construction of pathways, the buildings, and presumably as charcoal. There was a very good turnout. The carpark was at least three times oversubscribed, which will have its effect on verges, etc. There were folk from Fife, mostly range rover dressed, and lots of families with children from all around. Three pole lathes, though I only saw one working. Good chat with Maggi and we were invited back to Blainslie for a beer and/or Tea/coffee.

We all got a look round the workshop before Tim & Maggi arrived back, and the house is looking wonderful as usual. They had Russians visiting, artists who make amazing automata and are setting up a theatre in the city. Maggi is doing the catalog/programme. Tim is doing a permanent installation for the Gallery of Modern Art, as are the Russians.

Back through snow covered Yarrow valley and St Mary's Loch. A thoroughly worthwhile day's time & home well before midnight.

01 March 1996

Gallery tipi fully re-erected, chandelier hung, no glass yet. Floor raked, everything out to dry, fire lit and burning 24hours on gas.

Working on Gill's photos of snowtime, have discovered some gems, if reduced to greyscale. Copies to mom & Gill, Car & Pino

02 March 1996

Scotland Missed the grand slam opportunity. Were seriously slowed down by England, who had the best of possession and forced penalties. No tries, only one real attempt, which fizzled. Mel Wallace would have been more inventive.

Spread a bit more gravel in gallery tipi, continued tidying up. Tom called to say he's got to stay a week longer 'cause he can't get his passport sorted out without driving either to Miami or New Orleans. Disappointing, as I have told Tom Kidd he was coming back March 4th. There is a possibility of a visit from TK via helicopter, and I would love to discuss the possibility of video work.
March 11th, 1996

Tom arrived in Manchester, without baggage, Welcome home to the traveller! First cold & rain in weeks.

March 13th, 1996

Snow came riding in again on a cold southeast wind, drifting all over the place. Two to three inches this time, but hard to tell with the wind blowing it about. It feels very cold in the wind, but the gallery tipi's got its back to it, and the new smoke flaps seem to be OK. Annabel's birthday supper at Carlo's was great, and we ran through snowdrifts on the road - icy!

Doing the bird-feeding round, I came across some tracks. Somebody's been this way some time ago! The snow had blown so quickly, my own tracks of ten minutes ago were almost smoothed out. The birds have been eating in volume. I reckon they're averaging two and a half litres of sunflower seeds daily and half that of peanuts. There are pheasants, hens and cocks all round. Also collar doves, wood pigeons, tits blue, great & coal, finches, green & chaf, robins, blackbirds, loads of sparrows. Again I have a reed warbler near the sheep food, and down by the pond I saw a pair. I haven't seen song thrushes recently, but a pair of magpies are about in the early morning, in front of the house. Some crow-types visit the corn stations, and the sparrowhawk is not infrequent. A heron visits the ponds.

Buzzards, five at a time, are in the sky most days if there is any breeze. Often, one is sitting on the hedge by the road above the village, near the top of the rise. They're beautiful to watch. Alice says there are other raptors around, but I haven't seen any for sure. Did see something at least buzzard-size, reddish cast making way at eyelevel across the front of the place, one way in the morning and the other at evening, but only the one day.

March 15th, 1996

Tom is connecting the gallery tipi up to the workshop high door, building a sort of tunnel by raising the back of the tipi. Sam has made a shaving horse, and next weekend Godfrey and a bunch of folk are coming round to make a pole lathe for a green woodworking short course at Kilquhanity. Going through the files to tidy up, I've found a bunch of poetry:


This new species,
Encapsulated Humanity,
A migrating herd follows its beaten track.
With unconscious choreography,
The ribbon of steel and red light
Snakes slowly Southward.

The big cat waits,
Sporting fluorescent stripe,
And purring sinew of steel.
From his elevated post, he watches with laser eye,
Choosing only the swiftest as his prey.


Rock crusher
Wind breaker
The interface 'tween clod and cloud
Beards the hills
And fastens air to earth

Anchored in the wind
No less than in the soil
A bridge between the elements
Joining sky and stone

Air and Water
With Fire and Earth
The commerce of the biosphere


The frogs have had two goes, and there was spawn in all the ponds. Sadly, the good weather might have misled them, and I doubt there is any surviving. Hope they try again. The calendar is filled up, and there are going to be lots of meetings with political types to get the forest going. I've got to start blowing glass again and make a bit of money.

April 23, 1996

Saw a swallow about ten days ago. Just briefly flew by, then last Friday, 19th, saw one again and watched it fly about a bit. Everything is bursting.

April 12th 1997 - A Very Early Spring - long time no write.

For some weeks now I have been aware of the onrush of Spring. It has seemed that half the Winter's jobs remain undone and life is bursting all around and demanding to be dealt with. the inanimate tasks, such as assembling a newsletter, trying to clarify community forestry principles, advance promotion of the celebrations at Taliesin have pushed the major Winter task (bookkeeping) to the back burner, which is out. (no pilot light, even!)

Yesterday, while considering how to ensure new workshop backdoor could be blocked open for when the swallows return, I spied one circling the backyard - uncanny! he was there again this morning, sitting on the high wire in the upper field. Just the one, probably a cock. Hovering insects are buzzing now as I write in afternoon sunshineby the tipi. Hawthorn leaves have been greening up in the hedgerows and round about for two weeks now. The larch for 3 weeks, blackthorn blossom emerging for a week and cherries blooming in the shelterbelt for more than a week, not yet noted on older trees. (well out 16/04) Oak buds swelling, pines moreso, tiny birch leaves all over the place, but some still in slowly swelling buds. Willows out lots, weeper and contorted first, then golden and others now pushing. Lots of catkins a month since, alder among, if not the first. Still not much leaf from alders and no sign of arousal in ash - good buds though!

The last week's (fortnight's actually!) weather has been warm, with lots of sunshineand at Taliesin we had a day and a half's rain 4th/5th April and none since (as of 16th). Comet Hale/Bopp (the finest sky object I've ever seen!) and stars put on a show most nights.

The celebration at Taliesin was a brilliant success, thanks to immense voluntary input. Godfrey leads the list, but unnumbered others contributed handsomely. I reckon 2 dozen or more put in at least a day (not counting those who came from afar) in just the build-up; probably more than a dozen put in at least 3 days effort at hard labour, laying paths of bark chippings, stripping 150 poles, setting up six 22-foot tipis and a 50-foot longhouse, a green woodwork shelter, a mini-tipi box office, a trapeze setup for Tim & Karen, etc.

John Currie came and set up his genuine painted indian twelve-foot tipi, filled it with artifacts, dressed a young lady in full costume, and charmed young and old alike with traditional storytelling. He and his wife made the tipi and travelled with it, visiting reservations all over America starting 40 years ago.

People brought tents and built benders, many stayed in the tipis, 13 in mine one night. The place was alive with kids, day and night. A gang roaming one newmoon starnight found foxfire, the phosphorescent fungus, glowing in the dark woods and ran about bursting into adult fireside gatherings to share and show off their discovery: "Ed, Ed, I've got a stick that glows in the dark! Here, let me put my coat over your head so you can see it glowing!" They soon had found enough so all had a bit. The largest were fist-sized on rotting hazel butts.

On the 1000th night before the millennium (new moon or thereabouts), Comet Hale/Bopp and countless stars conspired with tipis lit by firelight within to produce what must surely be a prize-winning photograph from Simon and the most enduring image of the event. There was music every night, though only programmed for Thursday (Two Left Feet). Trevor, Karen, Blackie, Blue, Pete, Marco, Andy&Sarah, Mike, Tony, & many others. The last evening was like a family gathering round the kitchen fire, soft music mostly, and a memorable rendition of 'before the deluge' from Tony. "Pay attention to the open sky," and, looking up, there was our guardian Hale/Bopp smiling in the Northern starscape.

A number of local folk, previously unconnected with SCW, of whom Ann Goddard shall be representative, just showed up, brought their kids and contributed food, snacks, hard labour, routine tasks, enthusiasm, joy, - everything! Distant folk from London, Stroud, Wales, Tayside, Glas/burgh, even. New friends and members, but more important, folk from Stranraer, Lockerbie, Lochmaben, Dumfries. Folk from the heart of Galloway: Glenkens, Urrdale, Gatehouse, Laurieston, Auchencairn, Gelston, Corsock, KPD, CD and Craigmath!

The catering was a major success, with over 700 meals served, 120 at lunch on the Thursday. This is without counting innumerable snacks, dishes washed up, coffee, tea and cocoa on at most hours. There was bread from two magnificent ovens & Monty had kids queueing for hours with their pitta bread and cheese pasties. Reinhart's clay oven built on an inverted willow catenary form worked a treat, and Jason built a stone oven clagged with cowdung and turfed over, both gave excellent service including bread, baked tatties, baked onions, apple crumble for thirty, and a haunch of venison. On top of that and the kitchen tipi's output, there was tarjeen cookery from Michael Mosse with chicken, fish and veggie dishes, all output in sufficient quantities to have leftovers (sometimes, some things) Loaves and fishes, the miracle constantly repeated.

John Barrett was amazing at providing access to green woodworking techniques for dozens of kids and Stuart Morrison on two days as well. Charcoal John (Rippon) was up off and on through two nights after single-handedly chainsawing and splitting the whole kilnfull. We had the best cooking fuel available for the second half of the celebrations.

Mike Gardener built a corragh at least ten foot by five out of hazel and calico coated with bitumen. The maiden voyage on the pond had Mike at helm with an arkfull of kids and rough oars. A huge gang of adults & other kids lined the shore, pushing them back out as the wind constantly blew them ashore. In all, there were three boatfulls of kids, the last with Godfrey at helm late on the final day.

Trevor & Lizzie built the most beautiful willow form shelter with thatched roof and living walls, there were classes in basketmaking, young folks made charcoal in the campfires and then used it for drawing, monoprints made turned into eight foot totem poles.

Andy Hirst brought his portable sawmill and produced beautiful slabs for bench seating among other work and demonstration of what local added value can mean. We were given a lot of good wholesome food, approaching sell-by, a lorry load of bark chippings from Howie's and help from John Baird, with two tractors to distribute the bark around the site and re-inforce the pond dam. Very sincere thanks are due to Vanessa Morris, who used her skills and contacts as Crafts Development Officer to support many of the activities and her physical self as general labour as well. Thanks to ERDF/DGC/DGE for funding her post.

Ironically, no trees (or very few) were planted. Forest Authority and ESA rules seem to be in conflict and timeous approval was not agreed. We are planning to plant in the autumn, possibly October Holidays, subject to Beaurocratic OK. Also, due in part to beaurocratic delays, we have yet to secure our Millennium Forest funding, but are assured it is imminent. This is also due in part to delays on our part in plan preparation and presentation. Perhaps one more meeting?

We might have anticipated difficulty in clearing up, but on the day after, a baker's dozen and more exhausted folk made a brave effort, dismantling most of the structures, re-locating the kitchen tipi to a semi-permanent site with the potential of gravity-fed spring water, and most agreed to meet in a week to finish. In a week a full turnout, minus the long-haul folk finished removing unwanted paths, stacking poles and general tidying. What a lot of community spirit!

For further adventures in community woodland developments, see Southwest Community Woodland Trust

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