There's lots to look forward to in the coming weeks. At the end of this month we're having a 'fungal foray' in Portmoak Moss and at the start of October there'll be the annual apple day in Kilmagad Wood. In September, another chance to help pull birch saplings off the peat bog.
It's a long time since we've held a fungal foray but we've been lucky to find an expert guide, Dr Tony Lyon, who will lead a public walk to discover and identify the many kinds of mushrooms and toadstools which grow there.
We’ll meet at 2pm at the main gate to the Scotlandwell entrance and it’ll take approximately 2 hours. It’s open to all ages and will be a wonderful opportunity to find out about the fungi of all shapes and sizes which inhabit the trees and the ground beneath them.
On Sunday 2nd October at 2pm we'll have our apple day and by the looks of the community orchard there's going to be an apple bonanza! As well as helping to pick the fruit you can bring apples from your garden and have them pressed into beautiful fresh juice. There'll be the usual groaning table of apple-themed baking as well as games for the children.
We are very lucky to have Andrew Lear, aka appletreeman, from Perthshire, to come and help identify apples from your garden. Just bring along some fruit and twigs and leaves from the mystery apple tree and he'll do the rest. He also brings a splendid display of apples, so you can learn about all the wonderful varieties which grow in Scotland.
Before that, on September 18 from 10am-4pm we'll have another birch pulling event in Portmoak Moss. There'll be more details to come but we hope to get a good squad of volunteers, to continue the important work of removing saplings from the centre of the Moss and stop the peat drying out.
In good time for the school holidays, we’ve launched a new booklet to help children enjoy Kilmagad Wood, the beautiful woodland on the side of the hill above Scotlandwell.
This is a companion to our popular ‘Bogtastic’ booklet, in which Captain Carbon takes youngsters on an adventure round Portmoak Moss. The new one is called ‘Treetastic’ and once again Captain Carbon - a climate change superhero - invites you to use your senses to see, smell and hear the different kinds of plants and birds that live in the wood.
In the centre of the booklet there’s a map with points of interest to discover and by the end of your adventure you should be able to identify some of the different trees which grow there. The booklets are available in a dispenser just inside the main entrance gate, across the road from Portmoak Kirk car park.
The launch took place during a guided nature walk, led by PCWG member, Marjorie Smith, who has also been responsible for commissioning the booklet. It was under the banner of the Portmoak Festival and the group have been pleased to participate in this and other events during June.
The weather was also fine enough for a folk music concert, featuring local musicians, in Chris’s Place, at the heart of the orchard in Kilmagad Wood. It’s a perfect little amphitheatre and we hope there’ll be more live music there in the future.
There was supposed to be ‘Jazz on a Summer’s Day’ in the middle of the month but by then the spell of dry weather had broken and sudden showers with blustery winds made it too risky to set up instruments and equipment outside. Luckily we have Portmoak Village Hall just across the road which meant that around 50 people spent a pleasant afternoon listening to the Batchelor’s of Jazz playing some well known numbers and some less familiar takes on old standards, like ‘Benny’s from Heaven’.
After this rare digression from our core activities we’re back on track for the rest of the summer, with plans to pull Himalayan Balsam, to stop it invading the Moss and a public fungal foray with an expert guide to help you identify mushrooms and toadstools, also in the Moss. That’s not til the end of August and there’ll be more details to come.
Earlier in the spring, we were delighted to welcome the new Director of Woodland Trust Scotland, Alastair Seaman, on his first visit to our two woods. It was a good opportunity to show him all the work we have been doing, with the Trust, on restoring the peat bog. Then we took him across to Kilmagad Wood and climbed the hill to show him the view across to Loch Leven.
And that’s when something really exciting happened. In what we believe is a first for Portmoak Moss we had a fantastic view of a red kite, flying over the trees.
From high up, beside the Viewpoint Indicator, it was also a great place for Alastair Seaman to see the whole of the Moss and the mosaic of habitats it contains, from the peat bog at its centre to the variety of woodland which surrounds it. The WTS have begun work on writing the new 5 year management plan for the Moss and we're pleased that their new director has had a chance to see it for himself and hear about our hopes for the future.
Sunday 29th May, 3pm-5pm. Tunes in the Trees. Local folk musicians will be performing in the orchard.
Sunday 5th June, 2pm. Marje Smith, a member of our group, will conduct a guided walk starting in the orchard. We’ve been delighted by the success of a booklet for children, called Bogtastic, which introduces them to the Moss by taking them on an adventure with Captain Carbon. Now we’re ready to launch a new, companion booklet, this time for Kilmagad Wood, called Treetastic, which is equally full of puzzles and fun activities.
Sunday 12th June, from 3pm-5pm. Jazz on a Summer Afternoon. Dave Batchelor, trombonist and another member of Portmoak Community Woodland Group, will be there with his band. Dave’s jazz gigs have always been a popular part of the festival, with a great atmosphere and lots of toe-tapping music.
Community Orchard, opposite Portmoak Kirk
There’s a new and powerful incentive for climbing the hill above Kilmagad Wood - namely a lovely bench to sit on, installed by the Woodland Trust Scotland. Simply take the main path up towards the Bishop, from either of the entrances near Portmoak kirk car park, turning up the hill to the east before heading west to where the viewpoint indicator was installed some years ago by Portmoak Community Woodland Group. It's taking a brief leave of absence, as it's being restored.
The new bench gives you the panoramic view captured by the viewpoint board, which on a clear day shows you the Bass Rock in one direction and the Wallace Monument in the other. You’ll probably have to stand up to see it but, comfortable as the new bench is, you can’t sit there all day!
After taking in the view you can retrace your steps or carry on westwards, until a gully path returns you to the Michael Bruce Way and Kinnesswood or climb to the top of the hills.
If you look carefully at the viewpoint board itself you’ll notice the it needs another refurbishment. Don’t worry, PCWG are on the case and waiting for some settled weather before carrying out the necessary repairs.
From the new bench you can see Portmoak Moss and get a good idea of how much birch clearing has been going on in the middle of the bog. That’s been down to members of the group and visiting squads of other volunteers. We’re very pleased that Lothians Conservation Volunteers and a specialist team, the Bog Squad, will be joining us in early April to have another go at removing the birch saplings. The more we get rid of, the better the chances of a successful bog restoration, as we need to stop trees from growing on the peat and drying it out.
If this sounds like too much work and not enough play, fear not; we are beginning to put together some fun events for the rest of the year, from a dawn chorus walk to a fungal foray. PCWG have never been accused of not knowing how to enjoy ourselves and we hope you’ll join us for our events as well as making the best possible use of our two community woodlands in the months ahead.
We’ve had a good start to 2022 with volunteers from government agency, NatureScot, putting in a brilliant day's work on Wednesday 19th January.
The squad, consisting of the regular 'Wednesday volunteer team' and three members of staff, pulled out birch saplings from Portmoak Moss, to help restore the peat bog.
The ‘Wednesday volunteers’ normally work in the Loch Leven National Nature Reserve, next door to us, carrying out jobs like path clearance and meadow management. They’re used to pulling out the highly invasive pink flower, Himalayan Balsam, but the tough roots of birch were a different matter.
It was tough work and sometimes involved sawing round the base of each tree to loosen the root ball before easing it out of the peat.
Neil Mitchell, Reserve Manager, said: "We don't normally get to work on a bog and it's nice to do something to help one of our neighbours.”
And us neighbours, the Portmoak Community Woodland Group, were truly grateful. Most days one or two of our members pulls out a dozen or so small trees - but it’s so encouraging to see how much can be achieved with a lot of folk.
Michael McGinnes, who organised the event, said that the NatureScot volunteers had covered over 90% of the area we were trying to clear, in the latest phase of the restoration work - that was nearly 3000 square metres of quite difficult terrain, with many larger birch trees. The area has since been completed by members of the Portmoak group.
Members of PCWG, including Stuart Garvie (pictured with Neil Mitchell) also helped out on the day.
Over the past 4 years, with ‘a little help from our friends’ about a quarter of the central peat dome has now been cleared, making it easier for plants like Sphagnum Moss to spread. Sphagnum Moss rots down to create peat, so that’s what we’re trying to achieve.
Portmoak Community Woodland Group are looking forward to welcoming volunteers and staff from government agency, NatureScot, on Wednesday, 19th January, to help with the bog restoration project in Portmoak Moss. It's hoped that at least a dozen members of the team, based in Kinross, will turn out for a day of birch pulling.
We have been taking advantage of the winter months to get out onto the peat dome and pull out the young saplings, without the risk of disturbing nesting birds. It's hard work and it's fantastic to have other folk along to help with this big job.
Back in November we were grateful for the Lothians Conservation Volunteers (pictured) for giving their time and energy to the same cause. The NatureScot team usually focus on projects around Loch Leven and given how much work that involves we are delighted that they are managing to fit us in. If you're walking round the Moss on Wednesday, from roughly 9.30am to 3.30pm, do give them a wave!
Christmas Tree Day 2021 was a great success.
About 160 people came and as well as finding their trees everyone enjoyed the social part too - eating cakes and talking about peat bogs and Moss restoration. One of our best bits of feedback was "Our tree is perfectly imperfect! "
While everyone else was planting trees for COP 26 we were pulling them out.
And that’s because we have a raised peat bog on the doorstep and peat stores about ten times more carbon than forests.
The members of Portmoak Community Woodland Group were joined by a dozen from the Lothians Conservation Volunteers, who specialise in jobs like restoring peat bogs and who’ve had a long association with our group.
Everyone was there to do their bit - protecting the special place that is Portmoak Moss, where the peat is so thick, at least 6 metres deep, that it stores the carbon footprint of more than 40, 000 people.
One of the volunteers, Jackie Howlett, from Edinburgh, said: “Peat bogs have got a very important role to play in stopping climate change.”
Sphagnum moss, which forms the peat, takes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and locks it into the bog. Unfortunately, if too many trees are allowed to grow on the bog they dry it out and the carbon is released. We do have too many birch saplings at the moment, which is why we spent six hours on Sunday 7th November pulling them out.
Both groups were helped by volunteers from Scotlandwell and Kinnesswood, who grappled with the tough birch roots to get the saplings off the Moss. 6,000 square metres of bog were cleared of birch in weather conditions that might not have been wet enough for bogs but were fine and calm and welcomed by everybody there.
Michael McGinnes, of PCWG, and the event organiser, said: “With so much help we achieved twice as much as we expected and considerably more than on previous events, so it was highly successful. A big thank you to the Lothians Conservation Volunteers.”
Well, that was a long year. But we're back on events again with our annual Apple Day. It's a popular occasion and lots of people come every year. It's always good fun and productive for our apples too.
We'll be harvesting apples from the orchard and if you bring along yours we can add them all together and turn them into juice. Wash your apples, bring some clean containers and you can take away a few bottles. Even if you don't bring apples you can have some juice - there's enough in the orchard for everyone.
There will be apple themed baking (a beautiful French tart will be there) and apple themed games for children.
Wonder what kind of apple tree you've got in your garden? Bring along a leaf and an apple and Appletreeman will identify it for you.
Sunday 3 October 2-4pm
Community Orchard, opposite Portmoak Kirk
(We'll be Covid-secure of course)
This is an organisation that thinks a lot like us. We had an article in their recent newsletter.
We invited everyone to spend a week looking out for birds and telling us what you saw. Great response! 74 species were reported by 18 people in a total of 453 sightings.
There were some huge flocks of geese, over a thousand strong, as well as many solitary individuals. Some of the sightings were of quite unusual species, like yellowhammers and linnets, while others are familiar to us from our back gardens and bird feeders. Blackbirds, blue tits, great tits, chaffinches and robins seem to be everywhere.
The full report is here.
Lots of you responded to our survey about Christmas Tree Day and the message was that most people would like to get their tree from us. Thanks for that.
But, but, but…
There is now some Covid in our villages and the Portmoak Community Woodland Group don’t want to become a possible conduit for spreading the disease. On top of that, Scottish Government rules don’t allow events to happen and that doesn’t seem about to change any time soon.
So we’ve decided that this year we won’t be taking Christmas trees from the Moss.
Instead of chopping a tree, why not go and hug one instead, and wish it a Happy Christmas?
One thing we will be doing is decorating a Christmas Tree down there. We hope you can find it. For most us in the Group, that will be our only tree this year and we’re pleased to be able to share it with you.
This is a big disappointment for us, it’s one of the highlights of our year, so we’re really sorry to have to cancel. Next year, as soon as we are able, we’ll get back to our programme of all sorts of Moss and Orchard events. In the meantime, we are continuing to spend our funds on maintenance and if you feel that you’d like to make a small donation to our work, we’ve set up a Just Giving site:
Cancelled. We had a Covid secure plan, but then the rules changed to prevent outdoor gatherings.
The media machine rumbles on. This is useful background information on Kilmagad Wood.
The sequel to Bogtastic. To be distributed soon.
Less than previous years: earlier efforts are paying off. Put in another sustained effort to keep it under control.
Big effort to hand pull on the peat dome - looking really good. The Woodland Trust let the contractors loose too.
Very popular with our followers. Many contributions and lots of positive feedback.