A couple who planted 14,000 trees on a rocky peninsula in the Western Isles and a primary school which moved 80% of learning outdoors during the pandemic have been named among the winners at Scotland’s ‘Tree Oscars’.

Mike and Fiona Coulthard won the New Native Woods prize at Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards 2022 for “patience and perseverance” in planting trees on a croft on the exposed peninsula at Ardnakille, Scalpay, off the Isle of Harris.

Fiona and Mike Coulthard – © Julie Broadfoot

The Isle of Scalpay is a two and half square mile exposed peninsula of rock and peat constantly buffeted by wind and salt, making growing anything a huge challenge.  As well as the weather conditions, the couple had to protect saplings – grown from seed in fish boxes – from grazing sheep.

The judges reported: “Growing any trees on this site is an achievement – both ecologically and culturally – and for this the applicants are to be congratulated.  This project sets out an example to others of what can be achieved under the least prepossessing environments – and that we can all make a contribution to the environmental challenges we are facing.”

The school which took 80% of learning outside was Grandtully Primary, Perthshire, joint winner of the Schools Award with Priorsford Primary School in Peebles.  The judges said of Grandtully: “This is a beautiful example of how Covid helped take learning outdoors.  The school grounds are wonderfully developed by the children and the community for human play and learning, but also for wildlife.  The children have planted many trees and hedges, built structures from wood, made a wildlife watching area and much more.”

Priorsford and Grandtully Primary Schools with the Minister for Environment & Land Reform, Màiri McAllan MSP – © Julie Broadfoot

Joint winner Priorsford, the judges said, was a “superb example of how a school can take learning and play outdoors plus make connections to the local woods”.

The Early Years winner was Johnston Nursery in Kirkcudbright, praised by judges for its “visionary” approach.  The nursery has bought a small patch of local woodland and the children, with adult help, made it their own, using the children’s committee to express their wishes – including a dog poo campaign, tunnel, castle and tree planting.

The Awards were presented at the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston for the first time since 2019, following a Covid-cancellation in 2020 and online ceremony in 2021.

Winner of the Quality Timber Award for New Commercial Woods was Succothmore in Cowal, Argyll managed by Bryan Pearce for Tilhill. Succothmore was, the judges said, “an exceptional scheme from design to successful establishment”, which had created “appropriate commercial forestry in eagle territory”.  They added: “Both biodiversity and public access will benefit, including important botanical species and strong links into the Cowal Way.”

There was also a rare award of The Dulverton Flagon, made at the Quality Timber Award judges’ discretion, and last awarded in 2016. It was presented to Cormilligan, a large new commercial wood planted in Upper Nithsdale, Dumfries & Galloway, also managed by Tilhill. Judges described it as “an excellent example of modern Scottish forestry, delivering multiple objectives, focusing on quality timber and climate change mitigation” – and praised its “ambition, vision, and ability to take on board others’ views and criticism in its development”.

In the Farm Woodland Awards, Allanfauld Farm, near Kilsyth, North Lanarkshire, was a double winner. Farmer John MacGregor and forester Andy Maclachlan won the Young People’s award and the farm was highly commended in the overall award – as an excellent example of integrated farm forestry.

John MacGregor and Andy Maclachlan– © Julie Broadfoot

The ‘all age’ farm woodland award was shared between Williamwood, near Lockerbie and Knockbain Farm, Dingwall, Ross-shire.  Williamwood, judges said, was “striving to improve woodland habitats in complete fusion with food production”.  Without the woodlands, the owners Michael and Shirley Clarke said: “The farm would be exposed to the strong winds which blow from the Solway: the grass would not grow as well and we, our livestock and the wildlife would shiver.”

Judges highlighted the excellent shelter provided by trees at Knockbain for “undoubtedly increasing the farm’s capital value”.  Firewood provides heating through a biomass boiler for the farmhouse and income is generated through timber sales. Judges reported: “The farm is also outstanding in its connection to the local community in the neighbouring town of Dingwall with the woodlands providing very good footpaths and cycle facilities.”

The Small Community Woodland Group winner and overall Community Woodland Award winner of the Tim Stead Trophy was Taliesin Community Woodland, near Castle Douglas, Dumfries & Galloway.  Judges said South West Community Woodland Trust, which owns and manages Taliesin, had created “a special site that “encourages and enables local people to come together out of doors in a welcoming environment” and is a “haven for biodiversity”.  The judges concluded: “In their 25th year, they are also a worthy winner of the Tim Stead trophy for their stellar work.”

Màiri McAllan, Minister for Environment and Land Reform, who presented the Awards, said: “Scotland boasts a strong woodland heritage that is admired by many countries and its international reputation for good woodland management is well deserved.
“The Awards celebrate the achievements and hard work of all those who create and care for our forests and woodlands, and instil a love of trees in our young people.
“This year, the judges’ results shine a special spotlight on young people of both nursery and school ages, farm and community woodlands – and excellence in creating new productive and native woods.
“I’d like to congratulate all the winners who are keeping Scotland’s woodlands the finest they can be.”

The full list of awarded entries is available in the Roll of Honour

Scotland’s Finest Woods are delighted to announce the appointment of three experienced and talented forestry professionals to its Board of Trustees.

Tim Liddon, John Paterson and Stuart Glen bring a wealth of experience and skills to the team which supports the delivery of the annual awards programme to reward excellence in forests, woods and woodland education.

John Paterson
Stuart Glen
Tim Liddon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tim Liddon recently retired as Forestry Director of Tilhill after a very distinguished career spanning more than four decades.  As he says in his LinkedIn profile: “I have been in forestry for longer than it takes a Sitka spruce tree to mature but not as long as an Oak tree.”

John Paterson is another hugely experienced forester who has worked with EGGER Group for more than 30 years.  He is currently a manager with the company, specialising in public affairs and stakeholder engagement and was previously Director of EGGER Forestry and Wood Purchasing Manager.

Stuart Glen is Member Services Director at the Institute of Chartered Foresters, where he has worked for eight years.  His background is in fundraising, marketing and membership services.

Angela Douglas, Executive Director of Scotland’s Finest Woods, said: “It’s a real pleasure to welcome Tim, John and Stuart to the Board of Trustees.  They bring a wealth of experience in the sector and a breadth of hugely relevant skills that will be invaluable to Scotland’s Finest Woods. The rest of the Trustees are delighted to have them on board.”

Scotland’s Finest Woods Board is currently chaired by Guy Watt, supported by fellow Trustees Wilma Harper, Sir Patrick Hunter Blair, Peter Whitfield and Malcolm Young.  Angela Douglas is also a Trustee, but has decided to stand down after eight years in the role of Executive Director – with applications for her successor open until May 2nd. Details here

 

Can you build on the success of the prestigious Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards?
Do you believe in and wish to champion everything they stand for?
Are you a skilled organiser and constructive communicator who enjoys a challenge and takes a pride in quality?

If so, Scotland’s Finest Woods needs you from autumn this year due to planned succession!

Interested?  For details and how to apply see here.

Closing date for applications is 12 noon on Monday 2nd May 2022.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Do you believe Scotland’s Finest Woods should be celebrated?  Can you spare 2-4 days a year for a rewarding governance role?  If so we, the small charity Scotland’s Finest Woods whose sole purpose is to operate the prestigious annual Awards Programme, would love to hear from you!

As our trees and forests become increasingly important in addressing the challenges of sustainability, climate change, nature and people, Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards celebrate exemplary woodlands and the people who manage as well as care about them.  Due to the increasingly high profile, relevance and popularity of the diversified awards programme we are seeking up to three new Trustees to join us.    We will particularly welcome applications from those with experience in charity governance and/or some knowledge of agriculture including farm woodlands or timber, and/or fundraising or a combination of these.

Interested?  For details and how to apply see: here

Closing date for applications is 12noon on Wednesday 16th March 2022.  We look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

Scotland’s ‘Tree Oscars’ are back for 2022 after a highly successful programme in 2021 saw worthy winners ranging from the country’s largest landowner Anders Holch Povlsen to a tiny nursery school.

Mr Povlsen and Wildland Ltd won the prize for New Native Woods in Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards 2021, for Killiehuntly in the Cairngorms – while Perth Outdoor Playgroup won the award for an early years education provider instilling a love of woods in young children.

The 2022 Awards will see a renewed focus on climate change after the first Climate Change Champion prize was handed out at the 2021 Awards, with Ayrshire estate owner Andrew Sinclair honoured for his work at Balbeg.

Angela Douglas, Executive Director of Scotland’s Finest Woods, said: “The world is increasingly understanding that trees and wood are vital to tackling climate change and I’m delighted that our Climate Change Champion Award is back.”

With 80% of the UK’s new woodland currently being planted in Scotland, and continued Scottish Government support for ambitious tree planting targets, organisers hope for another exceptional set of winners in 2022.

“Anyone with a genuinely high-quality project has a chance to win an award, whether that’s Scotland’s largest landowner or a small nursery school, or a farmer discovering the benefits of trees to an experienced forester creating a model woodland,” said Angela Douglas.

The Scottish Government showed its support for the awards last year, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announcing the Schools and Early Years Awards and Environment Minister Máiri McAllan – whose brief covers forestry – revealing the Community Woodlands’ winners.

Ms McAllan said: “The addition of the Climate Change Champion and Early Years Awards in 2021 illustrated the importance of woodland in supporting Scotland’s world-leading climate change ambitions – and engaging young people in trees and woods at a young age. All the winners were clearly passionate about high-quality woodlands, and I look forward to another year of exceptional entries to celebrate this new golden era of forestry in Scotland.”

The Climate Change Champion Award has been developed in partnership with Forest Research, who will again provide expert judges in 2022. Category entrants, including schools or nurseries, can choose to enter this award alone or enter more than one award category.

All the other popular categories return in the long-running Awards, which were held online in 2021 after a 2020 Covid-cancellation.

Regular Award categories return, including the ever-popular Crown Estate Scotland Schools Award, won by Pitlochry High School in 2021. The Quality Timber Awards return too, with three different categories: new commercial wood, multi-purpose forest or whole estate, and a single stand/compartment or small wood.

The two Farm Woodland Awards are back – the Scottish Woodlands Ltd Trophy for Young People won in 2021 by Nikki and James Yoxall of Howemill near Huntly, Aberdeenshire, and the SAC Consulting-sponsored award for any farm woodland, won in 2021 by Wendy Seel and Anne Taylor’s organic vegetable business at Midmar, Aberdeenshire.

The Awards hope to return ‘live’ at the Royal Highland Show in 2022, but options are being kept open for a possible hybrid, or entirely online, event.

Entries must be submitted by 31st March 2022. For full details, criteria and entry forms. see: www.sfwa.co.uk

The annual ‘Tree Oscars’ to recognise Scotland’s finest forests and woodlands have named their first Climate Change Champion – just weeks before COP26 comes to Glasgow.

Balbeg Estate’s Bennan Hill, near Straiton, Ayrshire – owned by Andrew and Lynne Sinclair – won the new award, sponsored by CarbonStore, as Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards returned after a Covid-cancellation in 2020.

Professor Chris Quine, Chief Scientist at Forest Research, who led the team assessing the Climate Change Champion entries, said: “The judges were very keen to find a worthy winner for the new award and we certainly did find one, in Balbeg Estate.

“Bennan Hill was a well-planned and well-executed case study, drawing on guidance and expert knowledge to address the climate emergency by establishing trees to sequester carbon and contribute to a decarbonised future.

“Even more noteworthy was the way the estate demonstrated an integrated approach to tackling climate change throughout its activities with actions relating to mitigation, adaptation and knowledge exchange.  The owners demonstrated a strong commitment and a real consistency of vision which made this site a very worthy champion.”

The other 2021 winners ranged from a small playgroup in Perth and a high school in Pitlochry to Scotland’s largest landowner, Anders Holch Povlsen, who won the New Native Woods Award for Killiehuntly Woodland in the Cairngorms.  Mr Povlsen said the success was based on “a big team effort” and added: “We very much appreciate this recognition and I’m very proud.”

Thomas MacDonell, Director of Conservation at Wildland Ltd, who led the project, said it was “absolutely fantastic” to win what he described as “the premier forestry awards”. He added: “This could not have happened without Anders Holch Povlsen, who had the vision and courage to stick by us.”

It was a year of firsts – the first Climate Change Champion prize, the first time the Awards were held online in almost 40 years – and the first award for early years woodland education.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the schools and early years prizes for Pitlochry High School and Perth Outdoor Playgroup. She said: “I’m delighted to be able to support these fantastic Awards again, and to see young people in Scotland, from nursery through to secondary school, engaging with trees and nature in such a positive way.

“In the year that COP26 comes to Scotland, it’s important that our schools and early years settings continue to encourage young people to enjoy and value our woodlands. By learning about woodlands, taking part in activities, and sometimes also by planting new trees and protecting our woodlands, our young people are creating a greener, better future for Scotland. Congratulations to all the awards winners and everyone involved in celebrating the very best woodlands in Scotland.”

Angela Douglas, Executive Director of Scotland’s Finest Woods, said: “The high standard and number of entries in the Schools Award made it hard for judges to separate schools and early years settings. As a result the Outdoor & Woodland Learning Scotland team at Scottish Forestry agreed to provide an early years trophy – a beautiful carved wooden acorn reflecting the saying ‘From little acorns mighty oaks grow’ – and prize money.”

The number and quality of entries for the 2021 awards was very strong overall, Angela Douglas added.

“The strength of the awards depends on maintaining very high standards and recognising entries that truly deserve the title ‘finest woods’,” she said. “After the Covid cancellation in 2020, I’m delighted we have been able to bounce back with such a high-quality programme – and I would especially like to thank our 23 volunteer judges who put in so much work in difficult circumstances to ensure the quality standard was maintained.”

You can enjoy the 2021 Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards Ceremony and find out all those awarded here.

Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards is delighted to announce that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will help to reveal the prize-winners at its first-ever online ceremony next week.

Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards 2019 – © Julie Broadfoot / Juliebee – www.juliebee.co.uk

Màiri McAllan MSP, the Scottish Government Minister for Environment, Biodiversity and Land Reform, will also take part in the presentation ceremony.

Angela Douglas, Executive Director of Scotland’s Finest Woods, said: “We are so pleased that Nicola Sturgeon and Mairi McAllan have agreed to support the programme by announcing Award-winners.”

“The First Minister presented the Schools Award at our last ‘live’ awards at the Royal Highland Show in 2019 and really enjoyed herself.  It’s wonderful news that she has agreed to present the same award as we return in 2021.”

Màiri McAllan, elected for the first time as an MSP in May this year, will announce the winners of the two Community Woodland Award competitions.

Angela Douglas added: “We’ve worked hard to capture the  spirit and excellence of these Awards in our first online ceremony and we’re delighted that our special guests have agreed to support us.”

The event takes place on Friday September 10th,12-1pm and you can sign up here.

The 2021 Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards Ceremony: Have you signed up for this prestigious celebratory event?

Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards’ organisers are advising anyone interested in forestry, woods and related projects in Scotland that the usual limit to the number of people attending the ceremony does not apply to this year’s online event.

Normally, the popular Awards are held at the Royal Highland Show and numbers have to be limited due to space constraints.

However, the online Zoom event on Friday, September 10th (12noon – 1pm) – which will include special guests, video content and a few surprises – has an increased capacity of up to 500.

“We already have a great range of entrants, funders, supporters, judges and trustees signed up for the event,” said Angela Douglas, Executive Director of Scotland’s Finest Woods. “But we think some might believe there is a limit on attendance numbers, based on the usual in-person events.”

“We want to assure everyone that this is not the case and encourage them to sign up colleagues and anyone interested for what promises to be a great event.  As usual, we are turning the spotlight only on the highest quality entries, which truly deserve the accolade of being one of Scotland’s finest woods, forests or related project this year.”

There has been fierce competition in many categories, and the addition of the Climate Change Champion Award to mark the COP26 environmental summit coming to Scotland.

“We hope to welcome a much bigger cross-section of the forestry community than we normally can do in person as well as all those interested in our wonderful woods at the online awards” said Angela.

You can sign up to attend the event here

A fabulous new trophy has joined the high-quality Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards collection – as the 2021 virtual ceremony opens up for registrations.

Anyone wanting to join the first online celebration of the 2021 Awards can now sign up here to find out who has won from a large and extremely competitive field of entries.

Angela Douglas, Executive Director of Scotland’s Finest Woods, said: “Without giving anything away, we have had a very strong field of entries and will be able to reward some excellent winners – and commend many others.”

“We are working hard to ensure the virtual awards ceremony captures both the quality, as well as the fun and humanity, of the awards – and we hope all those who love and enjoy forests and woods will join us.”

The event takes place on Friday 10th September, from 12-1pm, via Zoom.

The new trophy, for the Climate Change Champion Award, sponsored by CarbonStore, is the latest addition to a superb collection of magnificent trophies awarded to the winners.

Angela Douglas said: “We are delighted with the latest striking trophy, which is a wonderful piece of art remarkably hand carved by chainsaw.  We will be thrilled to share the very high standard of awards in 2021, in keeping with our desire to reward only high-quality entries – those that truly merit the accolade of the Scotland’s Finest Woods or related projects.

“I would like to thank again our excellent judges, who have given their time and expertise to ensure that those high standards are maintained.  In these most difficult times, they have done an amazing job and we are extremely grateful to them all.  Their contribution, all as volunteers, to Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards is immense.”

Scotland’s Finest Woods will make history in 2021 by holding its celebratory awards ceremony online for the first time.

The long-running awards are normally presented at the Royal Highland Show in June, but the flagship agricultural event has been cancelled for the second year running.

   

The awards ceremony will now take place online on Friday September 10th, starting at 12 noon and completing by 1pm.

The decision to move the event until later in the year will allow judges more time to visit sites safely and in line with Covid-19 guidance, to make their decisions on the winners of the 10 competitions across 6 categories – for Quality Timber, New Native Woods, Community Woodlands, Farm Woodlands and Schools, as well as a new Climate Change Champion Award.

“The Trustees were extremely keen for the Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards to go ahead in 2021 after the disappointment of having to cancel the 2020 programme,” said Angela Douglas, Executive Director of Scotland’s Finest Woods.

“However, we are very mindful of Covid-19 restrictions and wanted to give our judges more time to be able to visit sites safely.  The Trustees have put the safety of judges and entrants at the top of our priority list.”

“Even before the cancellation of the Royal Highland Show, we realised that social distancing restrictions would limit the numbers at any in-person event – so started planning an online alternative.”

Scotland’ Finest Woods is working with Starkevents to create an online event which captures the high quality and prestigious reputation of the Awards as well as their relaxed, friendly and celebratory nature.

“We are working hard to ensure we can deliver an event which is enjoyable, but also celebrates and recognises the very best of our woodlands. We will reveal more details of the event over the coming months,” said Angela Douglas.

Photos: Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards 2019 – © Julie Broadfoot / Juliebee – www.juliebee.co.uk