The Woodland Trust at Shieldaig

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg speaks with Malcolm Turner from The Woodland Trust in the Highlands at Shieldaig about the conservation and expansion of the existing woodlands, connecting other woodlands in the area, increasing biodiversity through wildlife corridors and engaging with local communities in achieving this.

“While in the far north of Scotland I had a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the work of the Woodland Trust through meeting Malcolm Turner, a key member of their local team. He took me round the Caledonian forest above the village of Shieldaig, near the road to Applecross, the steepest pass in Britain. It is one of 84 remaining fragments of ancient woodland in Scotland. He pointed out on the map where the Trust had acquired new land to expand tree cover. We saw young scots pine, willow and birch.

He showed me how to identify which cones had been chewed by red squirrels and explained from what trees the numerous deer best like to eat the bark. What was most impressive were the different kinds of skills the work required, social as well as scientific. Malcolm was clearly adept at creating positive alliances with neighbouring landowners based on common interests in extending the forest and preserving biodiversity, while engaging with and supporting all parts of the local community.

He pointed out small trees which I would have estimated at just two or three years old, but which had been struggling to grow for at least a decade because the ground was so poor in nutrients. ‘We plant pine and willow first,’ he explained. ‘When they have generated enough humus we can then put in birch, hazel and rowan.’ Later during our visit to Scotland we saw some of Britain’s tallest trees, planted by a local laird 150 years ago. Thank goodness there are people who have the determination, vision and generosity to plant trees for our world’s future.”