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Archive for April, 2013

Galloway Forest Park , at over 300 square miles, is one of the UK’s largest forests.  It includes south west Scotland’s tallest peak, the Merrick; the UK’s first Dark Skies Park; the 7Stanes mountain bike trails;  3 visitor centres and 27 way marked trails.

A forest this large also has many different facets and ‘woods within woods’, as well as a rich natural and cultural history.  Polmaddy is the ruins of a classical Galloway ‘ferm toun’, nestling in the heart of the Galloway Forest.  This farming community was founded sometime before the 16th century, it’s thought, but the ‘improvements’ and the lowland clearances of the 1700s and 1800s resulted in Polmaddy finally becoming abandoned, but the ruins of its inn, houses, water mill and stables can be seen on a 1km way marked route.  It’s a magical place and there’s an almost palpable sense of history.  It’s thought that Robert the Bruce hid here during the wars of Independence against the English, and as a reward he gave the miller ownership of the mill.  There’s more information, including photos and details of how to get there on the Visitwoods web site.

The remains of the Inn at Polmaddy, thought to have been the last building to be abandoned at Polmaddy.

The remains of the Inn at Polmaddy, thought to have been the last building to be abandoned at Polmaddy.

But for anyone with a limited amount of time and wanting to experience this amazing forest from the comfort of a car, then a drive down the 17 mile Queens Way, the A712 which connects New Galloway with Newton Stewart, is not to be missed.  This road crosses through the heart of the forest. There are lots of laybys where you can park and easily visit attractions such as the Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall, the Wild Goat Park, Bruce’s Stone and Clatteringshaws Loch.  There is also the Glen of the Bar – not for the faint hearted! – a viewing platform which overhangs a steep sided wooded valley where, it is thought, ancient Gallovidians drove wild animals over the edge prior to butchering them for meat and hides. There’s free parking here, and a picnic table too so you can have a mini adventure and a fight with the chaffinches over your cheese sandwiches and all within site of your parked car!

The viewing platform at the Glen of the Bar on the Queens Way.

The viewing platform at the Glen of the Bar on the Queens Way.

But the very best way of exploring this huge forest really has to be in foot or on your bike!  Get more information on the Forestry Commission Scotland web site.

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Woodlands are, for the most part, magical places.  But sometimes their magic can also be enhanced by some carefully chosen artwork.  Here are some of my favourites!

The Eye in Galloway Forest Park is a majestic, 8 metre high tower whose deep red colour is a vibrant addition to the surrounding forest.  And on a calm day its reflection  in the loch is something special.  But The Eye has a secret – and you need to get close to it to see what it is!  The Eye is just one of a series of sculptures in the Galloway Forest; there’s more information about them at this web site here, and for more information about the huge Galloway Forest see the VisitWoods website for Galloway Forest.

The Eye in Galloway Forest Park

The Eye in Galloway Forest Park

Grizedale Forest in the Lake District is home to over 60 sculptures throughout the forest, and makes a walk in the woods a real journey of discovery!  The collection was started in the 1970s and can all be seen from the network of paths throughout the forest.  But you need to keep your eyes open – blink, and you’ll miss some of the ‘keys in trees’ and the sensitively-sited smaller pieces.  There’s a huge amount of information and some great photos on the Vistwoods website for Grizedale.

Grizedale Forest is a wonderful backdrop for large (and small!) sculptures.

Grizedale Forest is a wonderful backdrop for large (and small!) sculptures.

Back in Dumfries and Galloway, the wonderful (well, IMHO!) Andy Goldsworthy has made his mark on the local countryside through his Striding Arches which sit high on the Nithsdale skyline.  But, tucked away in a 100 year old stone farm building in the Cairnhead Forest is the amazing Arch in the Byre.  Half in and half out of the Byre, this Arch aims to interpret the local landscape and its history.  Near the Byre, the names of farming families who lived at the Byre have been carved into a stone bench.  The old, local names of the region are carved into the entrance way to the Byre.  The Cairnhead Forest is a beautiful woodland in its own right, and the Arches add a real sense of wonderment to the area.  Information about the Striding Arches can be found here.

The Byre by Andy Goldsworthy at Cairnhead Forest

The Byre by Andy Goldsworthy at Cairnhead Forest

And finally, a gentle stroll through the woodlands at Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries and Galloway has its own little secret – its own little arch!  We stumbled on this whilst exploring the less frequented paths along the Marr Burn.  There’s more information about Drumlanrig’s woods here, too.

Drumlanrig Castle's own Arch in the burn

Drumlanrig Castle’s own Arch in the burn

Personally, I think the most magical artworks are those you ‘discover’ for yourself in the woods, although all the ones I’ve talked about here are pretty awesome!

What are your favourite woodland arts?

 

 

 

 

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Scots Pine wins the poll- but I still think it should have been the Rowan. Sore loser? Moi? 🙂

Woodland Matters

Last month I blogged about a survey to find Scotland’s choice for the national tree. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Scots pine stood out high above the rest with two-thirds of the vote. Rowan, which I should declare as my own personal favourite, came in second place, with one-fifth of the vote. The other trees, in order of votes, were: aspen, birch, oak, Arran whitebeams and others.

We asked people to leave comments to support their choice. In the case of pine the main reasons were its iconic status within the landscape, the charismatic wildlife, including capercaillie, red squirrels and Scottish crossbill that pinewoods support, and the need to halt the decline of the Caledonian forest.

For rowan, the bright red berries and rich folklore appear to be the key to its popularity. If you want to be protected from evil spirits, witches and lightning there’s no better tree to plant!

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