A RECENT two-day Woodland Heritage Seminar organised by Cree Valley Community Woodlands Trust (CVCWT) and funded through the Community Woodlands Association Skills Development Fund was hailed as a great success.
The seminar was held in Newton Stewart at the Crown Hotel and was attended by 41 people with varying interests in woodland ecology, history and archaeology.
The event was organised to aid the development period of CVCWT`s new Cree Valley Woodland Heritage project which has funding from The Heritage Lottery Fund. The delegates were treated to some fascinating and enlightening presentations from a range of local experts as well as professional consultants.
Peter Norman, D&G`s Biodiversity Officer kicked things off with an explanation of how the story of woodland heritage can be pieced together like a jigsaw using information from a variety of sources such as archaeologists, ecologists, archivists and many others. This was followed by Graham Roberts, D&G Library Archivist who explained how, using a sequence of old maps from Pont`s maps of 1584-1600 to the first edition Ordnance Survey maps of the 1840`s, we can unravel the history of woodlands.
Archie McConnell, McConnell Wood Products gave everyone a great insight into how historical events have affected the fluctuating fortunes of our woodlands and the influences on people`s lives. The packed morning programme was completed by David Hawker, the plant recorder for Kirkcudbrightshire and of the Botanical Society of the British Isles. David explained how a particular suite of plants called Ancient Woodland Indicators can be identified and used as an aid in identifying ancient woodlands
Following an excellent buffet lunch, the afternoon was spent at the RSPB`s Wood of Cree reserve, a recognised ancient woodland and Site of Special Scientific Interest. Many ancient woodland indicator plant species were found and past uses of the woodland were indicated by the discovery of two charcoal platforms, where wood was converted into charcoal.
Day 2 was off to a flying start with an absorbing talk by Michael Ansell, whose passion for Gaelic place names and their meanings revealed the many Dumfries and Galloway names which have woodland connotations such as Killygowan, from the Gaelic `coille a’ ghobain’ which translates as `wood of the blacksmith’. The rest of the morning was shared between Peter Quelch, Woodland Consultant and Coralie Mills, Dendrochronologist/Environmental Archaeologist. Peter talked about woodland history and crafts with reference to a fantastic collection of books and tools which were on display at the seminar. He followed this with a presentation which illustrated how recognising the different growth forms of trees can give us information on the past management of the woodlands.
Last but not least, Coralie explained how analysing a core taken from the trunk of a tree can not only tell us the age of the tree, but much more such as growth rates. The presentations were completed with a talk from Coralie on how to investigate woodland archaeology and field techniques used, referring to a past case study as an example.
The final afternoon was spent at Knockman Wood, one mile from Newton Stewart which is to be an important woodland in CVCWT`s new Cree Valley Woodland Heritage project. A demonstration of tree coring and much lively discussion and investigation of archaeological features and woodland tree forms more than made up for the damp weather and multitude of midges!