Green Belt saviour

OK Hills are alive with the sound of Trust tree planting

Torrance Josephine

By Josephine Torrance

Everyone living in this area must be aware of our greatest natural asset, the wonderful Kilpatrick Hills and Long Crags. The hills have a rich history and a great many uses. They are enjoyed by bikers and bird watchers, walkers and runners. The farmers, sheep and cattle living there share the space with a plethora of wild flora and fauna, some of which are protected species and we have areas of SSI (Special Scientific Interest).

Great areas of the hills are now to be cultivated by The Forestry Commission and this should help protect our dear green place from intrusive development.  Duntocher is at the southern most point of the “Kilpatrick Forrest” and the only area where the new tree plantation meets the conurbation, so in ten years time we will have rowan trees at the back door.

Tree planting on the Long Crags and Old Kilpatrick Hills.

Living at the foot of the hills I’ve been in the privileged position of observing the transformation of the fields into forestry. Over the past few months I have been greatly impressed by the work of the tree planters in the fields behind my house. It was fascinating watching the posts being driven in, then the wire fencing installed. The machinery used was very efficient and it took only two men to enclose the whole field in a very short time. At first it looked more like a wild life park they were creating, as within days of completion we could see six lovely roe deer romping about in the “enclosure”, accompanied by a family of rabbits.

That was the first phase – next came the digger and tractor combination which excavated the thousands of parallel strips that can be seen all over the hills. Each “strip” has mounds at regular three foot intervals where the sapling trees will be planted. The precision of this operation was amazing, considering the contours and angles of the land, creating such parallel lines was an art form all of its own.

Up to this point this heavy work was done making use of heavy, specialised machinery. When it came to the actual planting it’s a different matter. Manual labour is the only way! It is a very strenuous, demanding job. Just look up at the hills and see the thousands of strips, each one could have 30 or more mounds awaiting a sapling. Each sapling then gets a support stick then a protective tube is put in place. So that means walking up and down each row three times to plant, support and protect each tree. It takes a really dedicated worker to tackle such work and not balk as the enormity of the operation.

Petra in OK Hills 2

Petra McMillan of the Dumbuck House Hotel is just one of the many people who enjoy the walks in the Old Kilpatrick Hills. Picture by Bill Heaney

During the Easter break, when many were enjoying time off, hiding from the extreme weather I was greatly impressed by an exceptional forestry worker planting away in the field just behind my house. Colin began work at dawn and worked till after seven at night, through hale, sleet and gale force icy winds. He walked up and down the rows, systematically, planting, supporting and protecting each and every sapling, stopping only to put on or take off rainproof clothing as the weather demanded.  He even refused the offer of a hot cuppa.  The trees he planted here were broad leaf, rowans, birch and some oak and the majority of the trees to be planted in the Kilpatricks will also be broadleaf with a minority conifers.

There must be thousands of of trees in this wee field but the area to be planted is vast. In fact 290 hectares and over three quarters of a million saplings to be planted over the next three years.

In time we will all be aware of the changes to our hills as the trees grow to maturity, but  we have been assured of our  continued free access via roads and paths into our beloved hills. So hikers and bikers can rest easy. Further, any threat to the green belt has been effectively removed.

Woods behind Bellsmyre

New planting in the woods at the foot of the Long Crags behind Bellsmyre in Dumbarton. Picture by Bill Heaney.




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