Countesswells to Cults Active Woodland Group

A new group encourages the community to enjoy the local woodlands and works to improve their biodiversity.

We are a new community woodland group to the west of the city of Aberdeen, working with landowners, Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS), and Aberdeen City Council (ACC) to make the most of this natural woodland asset on our doorstep.

The aims of the group are to encourage the local community to use and enjoy the woodlands, whilst doing as much as we can to improve the biodiversity of these varied woods.  This is where you can get involved with the volunteer activities we organise.

Where does the group operate?  The FLS areas can be seen in more detail here and here More information about the third piece of land, Cults Quarry Woods can be found in this document.

The extensive area of around 20 square kilometres includes plantation woodland of larch, Scots pine and Sitka spruce.  There are also areas of mature beech trees, and a small area of naturally regenerating woodland.  The whole area is set aside for predominantly recreational use.  It is therefore very popular with dog walkers, cyclists, runners, and horse riders

The woods are also home to lots of wildlife.  Red squirrels are regularly seen in the area, as are roe deer, foxes, badgers and birds.  It is one of the groups’ aims to try to improve the habitat for the wildlife by undertaking practical conservation activities, and monitoring and recording the effects.

©Claire Marsden

©Claire Marsden

Volunteer incentives

We usually provide high quality hot tea and coffee and home baked goodies for our volunteers, which always seems to recharge the batteries very well.

Our ability to carry out these work parties has been made much easier by the provision of tools and safety equipment donated to the group by the North East Scotland Biodiversity Partnership (NESBiP).

Activities and Events

Fungus Foray

So far we have had a number of events, the first of which was a Fungus Foray.  We didn’t have to go far down the track to find a huge array of toadstools.  Our two young fungus finders made the task very easy.  If you are interested in finding out more about fungus and the important roles it plays in woodland settings you will find what you need here.  There is also a very friendly and welcoming local group which organises fungus forays, the Grampian Fungus Group.

©Tiana Walker

©Tiana Walker

Birch Thinning

We have also held two days of birch thinning in an area which was clear-felled, and replanted with a mixture of native deciduous and coniferous trees.  The birch saplings have self-seeded so successfully that they are crowding out some of the trees that were planted.  By thinning out the young birch, we are giving the other species of trees a better chance of thriving.  Some very dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers have made real inroads to improving the light and space around the other native trees.

©Tiana Walker

©Tiana Walker

We also hope to remove some of the non-native rhododendrons from the woods, which have a habit of taking over large areas if left unchecked, choking out other native species.

Nest Boxes

Our most recent ventures have involved a variety of different nest boxes, which have been kindly provided by NESBiP.  Our National Nest Box week event in February allowed several families to come and build robin and blue tit nest boxes to take home, and we have enough kits left to repeat this event in September.

We also spent a very rainy day helping to put up four tawny owl boxes, and two kestrel boxes with Jackie Cumberbirch, Environment Ranger for Forestry and Land Scotland.  Our hope is that the boxes will be used soon, and we would welcome volunteers to help us monitor them.

©Tiana Walker

©Tiana Walker

Still to come are six bat boxes, which will hopefully attract roosting pipistrelle bats, and we will be working with the local North East Scotland Bat Group to put these up and monitor their use.   If you have a particular interest in bats the local people to contact are the North East Scotland Bat Group.  For general information about all things batty, go to the Bat Conservation Trust.

This part of the project required a fair bit of research on my part, to make sure that the boxes were built, sited, and fixed in the best way possible.  If you would like to provide extra nesting opportunities for your local birds and other wildlife, I found the most useful sites were RSPB and BTO and if you want to purchase good quality nest boxes for all sorts of wildlife, the Natural History Book Service (NHBS) site has all you need and more.

We are very grateful to NESBiP for providing these start-up supplies, as it does now feel that we have the means to encourage people to get involved with the improvement of the woods for wildlife.  It also gives us many more opportunities to share knowledge and appreciation of this wonderful local asset.

If you would like to help or join in with any of these activities please get in touch with me, Claire Marsden through the group’s Facebook page.

Claire Marsden

Chair at Countesswells to Cults Active Woodland Group