Would you like to Volunteer for #TheGreatTrossachsForest – A Gateway For Our Future

Ben A'an and Loch Achray
Ben A’an and Loch Achray

The Great Trossachs Forest is a unique and hugely important project with an unprecedented duration of 200 years. It covers an area of 160km (roughly the same size as Glasgow) within Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.

Since the project began in 2009 an incredible 1.5 million native trees, such as birch, rowan, juniper, hazel and alder have been planted, while invasive species, like rhododendron and pirri pirri bur, removed. This has returned the landscape from one heavily grazed and largely given over to commercial forestry, to a more natural and dynamic mix of habitats.

It is a landscape of huge environmental importance; within its boundaries are areas of herb-rich alpine and sub-alpine grassland, ancient oak woodland, native pinewoods, woodland pasture, moorland and montane scrub. This landscape supports a vast diversity of flora and fauna, much of it rare and protected; golden eagles, black grouse, pearl-bordered fritillary butterflies, otters and water voles are just a few species that call the forest home.

In April The Great Trossachs Path, a superb new 30-mile walking and cycling route between Callander and Inversnaid, and 2 visitor gateways are set to open.

Because of this The Great Trossachs Forest is looking for Volunteer Gateway Rangers and I spoke with Euan Hills, the project’s estate ranger, to learn a little more about how to get involved in this amazing and significant project.

Can you tell me a little about your role in The Great Trossachs Forest and what this involves on a day-to-day basis? I am a ranger for Woodland Trust Scotland (one of the project’s partners) and am based at the Woodland Trust offices just outside Brig o’ Turk. Within my role I cover all of the 5000ha Glen Finglas estate, which includes managing the new visitor gateway building in the Lendrick Hill car park and delivering events and activities for schools and groups. I also monitor what aspects of the estate visitor’s use as well as carrying out tree regeneration surveys, promoting the work of the Woodland Trust and The Great Trossachs Forest.

What is it that you enjoy about your job? It’s got to be the environment. I’m really privileged to be able work in this area, which encompasses a large portion of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park; the scenery is spectacular and the environment boasts some of the real sexy species like golden eagles, badgers, otters and pine martens. But one of the biggest rewards for me is being part of The Great Trossachs Forest and being involved in a major conservation project that will have a huge impact, as well as leaving a real legacy, for future generations.

There are 2 new visitor gateways at Inversnaid and Glen Finglas. What service will these provide to visitors? These buildings will provide a warm welcome to visitors and give them an idea of where to go and what to see. As well as information about The Great Trossachs Forest, the visitor gateways will provide information about all the fabulous walks nearby (including the long distance Great Trossachs Path), what wildlife might be spotted at different times of the year as well as all the fascinating local history. But their main purpose is to encourage visitors to get out there and explore the area for themselves.

Ben Ledi and the River Teith from Callander
Ben Ledi and the River Teith from Callander

A project of this nature really relies on volunteers. What role would they play as a gateway ranger? Yes it does. The Volunteer Gateway Rangers at Glen Finglas will play a key role in providing that all-important welcome and helping people enjoy the area. However, the real appeal is that they won’t just be stuck behind a desk. The Volunteer Gateway Rangers will be able to get out and wander around car parks and trails, chatting with visitors as they use the site. There will also be an opportunity to assist with events and activities on the estate.

What benefits would a volunteer get from working within The Great Trossachs Forest? Being the face of the Woodland Trust Scotland is just one of the many benefits as well as getting a chance to contribute to a major project and promote its work. Anybody looking to develop their interpersonal skills or gain more experience in people engagement would benefit from this role. Or even if you just enjoy chatting with people and want to keep active there are lots of benefits to suit all.

What days of the week are you looking for volunteers to work? The Gateway centre will be open between April to November and we are looking for people who can give some time over the weekends, anytime between 10.00am and 4.00pm

How would someone find out more about the volunteering opportunities available with The Great Trossachs Forest? There are a couple of ways to get in touch. If anyone wants to apply to become a the Glen Finglas Visitor Gateway Ranger via the Woodland Trust then please visit their website at here.

You can also contact us at The Great Trossachs Forest through their website at here.

Or if anyone is interested in becoming a Volunteer Gateway Ranger but would like have a quick chat before they apply then please call me at the office on 01877 376340.



Focus On: #Galloway, The Land of the Foreign Gael

To see a selection of this month’s ‘Focus On’ images please click here

The Galloway Coastline from Criffel
The Galloway Coastline from Criffel

The Galloway Coastline is very much part of Scotland’s windswept western seaboard and has a great deal to offer, particularly to anyone with a fervour for coastal walking.

Mountains, hills, lochs, woodland, beaches, rivers and cliffs line the spectacular coastline, which begins its journey near Gretna in the east and travels west through some of Britain’s finest scenery, crossing Dumfries-shire, Kirkcudbrightshire and Wigtownshire, before turning south through the remote landscape of The Machars and into the Rhins of Galloway, culminating at the Mull of Galloway, Scotland’s southernmost point, a journey of over 200 miles.

En route the wildlife is astounding, from the smallest lichen to the mighty Basking Shark (and everything in-between), while the outstanding scenery extends to Ayrshire, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Kintyre Peninsula and the mighty Lake District mountains.

Galloway is the 3rd largest region in Scotland and one of the most sparsely populated areas in Europe; as of 2011 Galloway has approximately 148,000 inhabitants with a population density of 60 people per square mile. Compare that to the Scottish average of 168 people per square mile and you will understand why a real sense of space and freedom pervades when walking in Galloway. There is definitely room to breathe.

With its history, complexities of language, cultural heritage and remoteness to much of Scotland, Galloway has a distinct feel to it, one that is hard to put your finger on – spend time walking the hills or coastline and it may become clearer.

Historically the western half of the region was known as the Kingdom of Galloway and during the Dark Ages was an independent, Gaelic speaking kingdom.

The Mull of Galloway
The Mull of Galloway

Over the centuries Galloway was subsequently divided into three distinct counties; Wigtownshire and Kirkcudbrightshire to the west and Dumfries-shire to the east. The region’s history extends back many thousands of years with much evidence of iron-age forts, crannogs and early Christian sites, whilst a magnificent array of abbeys and castles were built from the 12th century onwards and with such a lengthy coastline strong trade links were established with England and Europe.

The name Galloway didn’t appear until the 11th century and was named after a people, known as the Gall Gaidheil, a race that developed in Scandinavia and in the Hebrides during the 9th century. It was a simple migration of people that led the Gall Gaidheil into southwest Scotland around this time giving rise to the name Galloway, which means amongst the Gall Gaidheil or Land of the Foreign Gael.

Prior to this, the main languages within the region were British and Anglian and certainly this mixture, which also includes Norse, can be seen in the names of the towns, villages, rivers and hills along the coast.

The two largest towns in Galloway have their roots in Gaelic – Dumfries translates as Fortress of the Woodland and Stranraer as Place of the Fat Peninsula. The wonderful hill of Criffel, rising above the Solway Firth a few miles from Dumfries, means Raven Hill from the Norse Kraka-fjell – the raven is the sacred bird of Scandinavia.

The Solway Firth also has Norse origins and translates as Firth of the Muddy Ford whilst the River Dee in Kirkcudbright (Gaelic, Divine River) and Kirkcudbright itself (Scots/Old English, Church of St Cuthbert) further illustrates the fascinating historical and linguistic relationship language has with the Galloway Coastline.

With such a vast coastline you would expect a superb array of birdlife and Galloway really excels; curlew, cormorants, dunlin, greenshank, redshank, knot, barnacle and pink-footed geese, oystercatcher, shags and sandpiper are just a selection to be found on the beaches, estuaries and mudflats whilst the cliffs are home to the likes of fulmars, gulls, puffins and razorbills.