Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards

These awards celebrate the contribution that woodlands can make to the people, environment and economic prosperity of Scotland

‘Tree Oscars’ reward excellence in forests and woods

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