The Carbon Managers Trip to Alladale Wilderness Reserve

Scotland March 11-13th 2009

The Carbon Managers Team (CMT) have just returned from a very eventful trip to the Highlands of Scotland. We were there to oversee the tree planting that the Carbon Managers are funding through the highly successful Trees 4 Business Campaign , World Tree Appeal and Plant a Tree for Life initiatives. From airport security misdemeanours to getting stranded on a snowy mountain top the CTM experienced it all.
The main aim of the trip was find more about the amazing work that is going on the 23,000 acre reserve called Alladale. With the help of the team up at Alladale we are hoping to plant 100,000 trees this year and re-establish the Caledonian Forest.

Alladale Lodge

Day 1

We landed at Inverness Airport on the Wednesday morning and headed straight up to Alladale for our journey to the latest tree planting site. Companies including Estee Lauder, Blue Square Data Group and Bombardier have all contributed to this latest round of planting.

When we arrived at Alladale we were met by head ranger Innes MacNeill who would take us up to the planting site.

George Thomas, Innes MacNeil, Geremy Thomas

Airport Blunder

The first incident unfolded as we were putting on our outdoor clothing at the Lodge, George put his hand in his pocket and pulled out a handful of shotgun cartridges. He had unwittingly carried them through the airport security in his hand luggage!

George looking sheepish for the press

We were all shocked that Bristol Airport had not picked up on the cartridges. Seizing this we spoke to our PR agency and they put the story out to the press. Here is a link to the article in the Daily Telegraph, the story also made it in to The Scotsman, The Metro, the BBC News website and the Western Daily Press.

“The Spade is your Friend”

The light was starting to fade as we made our way up to the latest tree planting site with Innes . Alladale has very varied terrain from lush valley bottoms to windswept mountain tops. In order to get to the site we had to have a lift in an Argo Cat 8 wheel drive vehicle to get across the tough terrain. All was progressing well with Innes expertly navigating his way around various holes and obstacles; we were nearly at the planting site when we came across a patch of snow. We were making good progress when suddenly the snow gave way and we were stuck nose first in a large ditch! Innes got out of the Argo Cat and sank up to his waist in snow, he quipped “We’re going to need to the spade”. After much pushing, digging and pulling we escaped the ditch and progressed to the planting site.

James and George weighing up the sticky situation

George Thomas Tree Planting

The Tree Planting

We all had a turn in planting some new saplings; the picture shows George planting a Rowan sapling. This particular site at the far end of one of the Glens had over 2000 trees planted with funding from the Carbon Managers. Our trip back to the lodge went very smoothly with a quick stop off to look at where the water is drawn off from the river to supply the new hydro electric turbines that power the whole of the reserve.

Seeds and Saplings

Back at the lodge we had a tour of the green houses where the new seeds and tree saplings are brought on. Alladale is unique in that it tries to grow as many of its saplings on site seeded from existing trees keeping the reserve in its most natural state without foreign species.

This is George proudly showing off some of the Caledonian Pine cones that have been harvested, dried and then deseeded to be planted. These will subsequently form the next generation of Caledonian Pine at the reserve providing thousands more seeds for centuries to come.

Day 2

Day two of our trip was spent looking at a very special area of the reserve
We travelled to see a project that was set up over a decade ago. This particular area has been fenced off to keep the deer from devastating the flora. Innes thought the total size of the enclosure was around 450 acres and as the picture shows extends from a valley bottom to a mountain top. The difference between inside and outside the enclosure is breath taking, inside the trees and heather dominate that landscape with a huge variety of other species interlaced. Outside is a different story; after the Glens were cleared of trees some 200 years ago and the deer populations began to grow the vegetation has become much sparser. The roots of the trees helped to bind the soil together preventing erosion and providing micro climates for other plant species. When the trees were felled the landscape altered dramatically and that is what the vast majority of the Highlands are like at the present time. Heather exists in small patches but grass and moss make up the majority of the landscape, giving it a very baron and windswept appearance. The deer shape the landscape grazing on new shoots so only the hardiest of vegetation can survive.

Boar and Moose

Another interesting part of our trip was spent learning about the re-wilding project that the Alladale team is undertaking. The aim is to bring back species that would have been native to the highlands in centuries past. They have made huge steps and have managed to introduce wild boar and moose back to the reserve, with the long term goal of homing brown bear, elk, eagles and lynx.

Day 3

Back to the Airport

After a fun filled and eventful two days up at Alladale we returned to the airport only to find that the security had tightened significantly since we had arrived! It took the team over an hour to make it in to the departure lounge. We drew our own conclusions but perhaps George and the shotgun cartridge incident had something to do with it.

Thanks for reading

The CMT .

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