Glen Alladale from the high tops

Scottish Highlands

Restoring the great forest of Caledon
Glen Alladale from the high tops

Scottish Highlands

Restoring the Great Forest of Caledon
TREES PLANTED
3,000
TONNES CO2 SEQUESTERED*
750  
TREES PLANTED
3,000
TONNES CO2 SEQUESTERED*
750

Project Summary

In October 2019, we launched our project to restore the Caledonian forest in the Scottish Highlands. So far we’ve planted 3,000 native trees at  Alladale Wilderness Reserve. 

The project aims to restore and diversify the native pinewood habitat. Scots pine and downy birch saplings are being planted in open areas while less common food-producing broadleaf species are being planted in existing planting schemes to enrich and diversify the growing woodland.

The birchwoods of Glen Mor in the fall

Tree species

Twinflower (Linnea borealis), black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix), golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos), red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris), Scottish crossbill (Loxia scotica), pine martens (Martes martes) are all present in the area. 

We plant Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), downy birch (Betula pubescens), juniper (Juniperus communis), hazel (Corylus avellana), holly (Ilex aquifolium), European crab apple (Malus sylvestris), common hawthorn (Cratageus monogyna). 

Priority species

Twinflower (Linnea borealis), black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), Scottish crossbill (Loxia scotica) and pine marten (Martes martes) are all present in the area. 

A view from above of Glen Feshie pinewoods

Silva Caledonia

The Roman naturalist and author, Pliny the Elder, noted that the Roman armies that had invaded much of Britain were never able to travel north into Scotland because of the great forest that covered the landscape at the time. He called it the “silva caledonia”.

The Ecosystem

An ancient wilderness

Reversing centuries of ecological damage

Historically, much of the Scottish Highlands were covered in a forest of majestic Scots pine and colourful broadleaf trees, home to a diversity of plants and animals. Today, the landscape is largely devoid of these unique woodlands and many of the species that once thrived here have been lost. Our aim is to undo some of this damage and restore the empty glens and hillsides of the Scottish Highlands to rich, wild woodlands.

A red squirrel perches on a birch tree against a sunrise backdrop

Project Summary

In October 2019, we launched our project to restore the Caledonian forest in the Scottish Highlands. So far we’ve planted 3,000 native trees at Alladale Wilderness Reserve. 

The project aims to restore and diversify the native pinewood habitat. Scots pine and downy birch saplings are being planted in open areas while less common food-producing broadleaf species are being planted in existing planting schemes to enrich and diversify the growing woodland.

The birchwoods of Glen Mor in the fall

Tree species

We plant Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), downy birch (Betula pubescens), juniper (Juniperus communis), hazel (Corylus avellana), holly (Ilex aquifolium), European crab apple (Malus sylvestris), common hawthorn (Cratageus monogyna). 

Saplings delivered to the field for planting
A recently planted juniper sapling
Planting a pine sapling in the ground
A tree planter carries a  bag of pine seedlings

Priority species

Twinflower (Linnea borealis), black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), Scottish crossbill (Loxia scotica) and pine marten (Martes martes) are all present in the area. 

A view from above of Glen Feshie pinewoods

Silva Caledonia

The Roman naturalist and author, Pliny the Elder, noted that the Roman armies that had invaded much of Britain were never able to travel north into Scotland because of the great forest that covered the landscape at the time. He called it the “silva caledonia”.

A wildcat peers through the trees

Silva Caledonia

The Roman naturalist and author, Pliny the Elder, noted that the Roman armies that had invaded much of Britain were never able to travel north into Scotland because of the great forest that covered the landscape at the time. He called it the “silva caledonia”.

The Ecosystem

The Ecosystem

An ancient wilderness

Reversing centuries of ecological damage

Historically, much of the Scottish Highlands were covered in a forest of majestic Scots pine and colourful broadleaf trees, home to a diversity of plants and animals. Today, the landscape is largely devoid of these unique woodlands and many of the species that once thrived here have been lost. Our aim is to undo some of this damage and restore the empty glens and hillsides of the Scottish Highlands to rich, wild woodlands that are full of life.

The understory  of a Scottish pinewood

A unique habitat

What makes this ecosystem special?

The Scottish pinewoods are a globally unique habitat due to the absence of any other conifer species, other than Scots pine, within the woodland. These woodlands support some of the UK’s rarest plant and animal species like the beautiful and delicate twinflower, the elusive wildcat and the impressive capercaillie. Restoring native woodlands in all their beautiful complexity will help return Scotland to wilder, richer state that a variety of species, including humans, can enjoy.

A wildcat peers through the trees
Twinflower in the understory of a pinewood
Two red deer stand among cotton grass in the Scottish Highlands
A herd Highland cows stand their ground among the heather

The Threats

A herd of red deer stand against a backdrop of autumnal hills
Sheep graze the landscape against a conifer plantation backdrop

A history of deforestation and land clearance

A history of deforestation and land clearance

Climate change

At the end of the last Ice Age, much of the Scottish Highlands were covered in woodland, mainly composed of Scots pine and birch. Around 4,000 years ago, the climate began to change. The natural tree line lowered, peat bogs expanded and woodland cover began to decline.

Deforestation

At around the same time, humans began to significantly change the landscape around them. Trees were felled to make room for crops and graze livestock, to harvest timber and fuelwood. By the 1700s, the great Caledonian Forest was reduced to small, isolated pockets of the Highlands. Much of the wildlife that thrived here, like lynx, bears and wolves, were lost.

Overgrazing

In the 18th and 19th century, when much of the landscape had already been cleared of forests, estate owners began to clear the land of people. Known as the Highland Clearances, local people were forcibly evicted from their homes, entire villages were cleared, to make way for sheep grazing. Today, a combination of sheep farming, unsustainable numbers of deer and intensive land management for grouse shooting is restricting the ability of native woodlands to regenerate on their own. Reforestation with native species is therefore vital to restore this unique habitat.

A red squirrel perches on a birch tree against a sunrise backdrop

A unique habitat

What makes this ecosystem special?

The Scottish pinewoods are a globally unique habitat due to the absence of any other conifer species, other than Scots pine, within the woodland. These woodlands support some of the UK’s rarest plant and animal species like the beautiful and delicate twinflower, the elusive wildcat and the impressive capercaillie. Restoring native woodlands in all their beautiful complexity will help return Scotland to wilder, richer state that a variety of species, including humans, can enjoy.

The understory  of a Scottish pinewood

The Threats

The Threats

Climate change

At the end of the last Ice Age, much of the Scottish Highlands were covered in woodland, mainly composed of Scots pine and birch. Around 4,000 years ago, the climate began to change. The natural tree line lowered, peat bogs expanded and woodland cover began to decline.

Deforestation

At around the same time, humans began to significantly change the landscape around them. Trees were felled to make room for crops and graze livestock, to harvest timber and fuelwood. By the 1700s, the great Caledonian Forest was reduced to small, isolated pockets of the Highlands. Much of the wildlife that thrived here, like lynx, bears and wolves, were lost.

Overgrazing

In the 18th and 19th century, when much of the landscape had already been cleared of forests, estate owners began to clear the land of people. Known as the Highland Clearances, local people were forcibly evicted from their homes, entire villages were cleared, to make way for sheep grazing. Today, a combination of sheep farming, unsustainable numbers of deer and intensive land management for grouse shooting is restricting the ability of native woodlands to regenerate on their own. Reforestation with native species is therefore vital to restore this unique habitat.

A wildcat peers through the trees

Project Map

Project Map

Birches carpet Glen Mor in the summer

Pioneer birch woodlands at Alladale Wilderness Reserve

Sources & Further Reading

✅ for peer reviewed research

1. *This is the potential CO2 sequestered in above ground biomass in the Scottish Highlands over a period of 100 years (Trees for Life).

2. “Rewilding–a new paradigm for nature conservation in Scotland?” – C Brown, R McMorran, MF Price 2011 – Scottish Geographical Journal – Vol. 127, Issue 4 – tandfonline.com 

3. “Divergent visions of wildness and naturalness in a storied landscape: Practices and discourses of rewilding in Scotland’s wild places” – H Deary, CR Warren 2017 – Journal of Rural Studies – Vol. 54 –  Science Direct 

4. "Diversifying native pinewoods using artificial regeneration" - TK Ogilvy, CJ Jegg and JW Humphrey 2006 - Forestry - Vol 70, Issue 3 - academic.oup.com

5. "Wolf reintroduction to Scotland: public attitudes and consequences for red deer management" - EB Nilsen et al. 2007 - Biological Science - Vol 247, Issue 1612 - royalsocietypublishing.org

Sources & Further Reading

✅ for peer reviewed research

1. *This is the potential CO2 sequestered in above ground biomass in the Scottish Highlands over a period of 100 years (Trees for Life).

2. “Rewilding–a new paradigm for nature conservation in Scotland?” – C Brown, R McMorran, MF Price 2011 – Scottish Geographical Journal – Vol. 127, Issue 4 – tandfonline.com 

3. “Divergent visions of wildness and naturalness in a storied landscape: Practices and discourses of rewilding in Scotland’s wild places” – H Deary, CR Warren 2017 – Journal of Rural Studies – Vol. 54 –  Science Direct 

4. "Diversifying native pinewoods using artificial regeneration" - TK Ogilvy, CJ Jegg and JW Humphrey 2006 - Forestry - Vol 70, Issue 3 - academic.oup.com

5. "Wolf reintroduction to Scotland: public attitudes and consequences for red deer management" - EB Nilsen et al. 2007 - Biological Sciences - Vol 247, Issue 1612 - royalsocietypublishing.org