Tree Planting in Bathing House Wood
It all began in January 2015 with an application to the Woodland Trust for a grant of trees to help with their project to plant trees across the UK under the banner "We will stand for those who fell" to commemorate the soldiers who sacrificed their lives in World War 1.
When we heard we had been successful and would receive the 105 trees that we requested then the preparation work began. Some gaps in the wood that had been created when many of the Sitka Spruce were blown down in the severe gales of 2 years ago were identified, and clearing of brambles and nettles began. The aim of the clearing work in the areas to be planted was to reduce the competition for light and water from these vigorous species that carpet much of the woodland floor. Several Sundays and some weekdays saw groups of DBCWG volunteers ably assisted on the Sundays by some children and parents from the local area hard at work.
Bathing House Wood was a very appropriate location for the tree planting as it was here that the accomodation blocks and some other buildings that housed the Royal Garrison Artillery were located. They were there during World War 1 to man the searchlights and guns mounted on the cliffs above the wood and on Downing Point. These were an important part of the defences of the Forth and the newly constructed Royal Naval Dockyard at Rosyth where part of the British fleet was based. Not surprisingly turning over the soil in some areas, and combing of the adjacent beach uncovered evidence of their domestic activities. There were drain pipes and fragments of pottery including some collected by Blair and his daughters bearing the coat of arms of the garrison.
The trees were deliverd in early March and had been plug grown so had well delevoped root systems. There were some Oak and Birch, but the majority were shrubs; Blackthorn; Hawthorn; Rowan; and Hazel. All are species that will greatly enhance the value of the woods for wildlife as well as providing, in some cases, spring blosom and autumn berries to brighten walks along the woodland paths. The trees were carefully looked after while the final stages of planning for the planting was concluded and then all came together on Monday 30th March for the trees to be planted. That date was was chosen for the planting in order to link in with Donibristle Primary School whose Primary 7 classes were to do the planting as part of their work experience with the John Muir Trust. Monday was not forecast to be a good day, with cold, wind and rain, but fortunately, although the walk down from the school was wet, a little watery sunshine greeted them as they were welcomed to the wood and given the areas for the different groups to plant. They quickly set to work and before long all the trees were safely planted in their allocated positions.
An additional dimension to this tree planting exercise was the presence of some current and past members of the Royal Artillery. Contact had been made with the regiment earlier in the planning process and Colonel Jim Kinloch, the Chairman of the Royal Artillery Association Scottish Region, and the Honorary Colonel of the 105th Regiment Royal Artillery, responded with the suggestion that he would be able to attend, along with serving and veteran members of the regiment. This was a fantastic bonus and provided an opportunity for one of his colleagues, Major Brian Robson, to talk to the children at the school in advance of the planting about the history of the regiment and its involvement in Dalgety Bay and WW1. A further treat was provided by them bringing along a 105 mm light gun which was displayed in the school grounds and enabled pupils of all ages to get close to a key part of Royal Artillery equipment; it is a gun of this type that is used for the Royal salutes at Edinburgh and Stirling Castles.
Following the planting, Colonel Kinloch was able to talk further to the children about the sacrifices made by WW1 soldiers and answer pupils questions, and this included the identification of a WW1 belt buckle uncovered by one pupil during the planting. He finally read a poem reflecting on the blooming of poppies and the loss of soldiers in war written by Erinn Law one of the younger Donibristle pupils who had been involved in the preparation work and also last years wildflower planting where poppies featured very strongly. The rain continued to hold off until all were back at school and then later, a steady downpour gave the new trees a thorough watering in, a successful conclusion to a good morning’s work.
The trees that were planted came with clear plastic tree guards and as the trees came into leaf it became clear that the guards were acting as mini greenhouses and, being of small diameter, had limited ventilation.
Tree Guards still in place
4 May 2015
The internal condensation that was accumulating looked as though there was potential for damage to the new greenery so it was decided to remove the guards and take the risk that the trees could then be attacked by the Roe deer that frequent the woodland. In the event there was no evidence of deer browsing on the trees and with a sigh of relief the trees were allowed to expand and grow unconstrained by the guards.
Once planted, young trees cannot simply be left to fend for themselves, especially when planted in gaps in existing woodland. Where the ground cover of nettles, ivy and brambles had been cleared, a number of other woodland plants sprang up, germinating from seed that had lain dormant in the soil. Each year has seen volunteers clearing away any plants that grew up around the young trees and threatened to smother them. Away from the trees nettles quickly returned, and perhaps it was the extensive cover of these that helped to keep the deer away from the trees.
What was also necessary was watering. Summers are often dry in Dalgety Bay, and with nearby mature trees, sparse spring and summer rain was quickly taken up by these larger specimens leaving the ground where the trees had been planted very dry. Each summer has seen two of us spending an afternoon or two taking containers of water to give the ground around our young trees a much needed soaking. In 2017 with an exceptionally dry April, we were only just in time, as some trees were already showing drought damage.
Thanks to all this care and attention we have only lost a very small number of trees, very probably ones that had been missed during the watering. This happened in part because as the canes that had been left beside each tree weathered they became more difficult to see. To make sure none would be missed in coming years, a thorough search was made in the early autumn of 2017 to find each tree and add a tape flag to the canes. This search also allowed the trees to be assessed and it was heartening to see how well some of them had grown. The Gallery below shows some of the best grown trees of each of the species planted, quite a size for only 3 growing seasons from planting.
The next landmark will be when Blackthorn, Hawthorn and Rowan start to develop flowers, but that is still a few years away.