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Green Christmas, festive fun

We welcomed more people than ever to our alternative Christmas tree event in Portmoak Moss on Sunday, December 10th. Was it the promise of warm crumbles, mulled juice, or a wonky tree which drew the crowds? Whatever it was, we reckon at least 160 people turned up, including many bairns. 

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Thanks to everyone for taking away around 60 spruce trees and donating over £1,400. This was an amazing sum and will help to pay for all sorts of things next year - from lots of bird boxes, for a special day with Portmoak Primary School, to an exciting calendar of public events.

We'll try to maintain our standard of homebaking to accompany all our activities. Marje Smith went the extra mile this time, providing custard to go with the crumbles. The other goodies included chocolate torte, clootie dumpling (a shout out to Michael McGinnes for these), shortbread and cookies. 

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A further thanks to those of you who couldn't immediately drive into the car park, at our busiest time, and who were very nice about it. And well done, the folk who walked; that's obviously not practical for everyone but is a good, green approach.   

And that ties in with what we're doing by removing the spruce trees from the peat bog, to stop it drying out, helping to store carbon and creating the right, soggy conditions for beautiful sphagnum moss. It's working! Members of Portmoak Community Woodland Group had a snowy walk out onto the bog, on December 30th and discovered lots of bright green and pink patches of sphagnum and very little tree regeneration, on an area where restoration effort has been focussed.

We're exctited about the prosects for 2024 and wish you a very happy New Year!

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Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree

Come and join the fun of finding yourself a tree in Portmoak Moss from 11.30am-2.30pm on Sunday, Dec 10th. We're making it easier again this year by cutting some the day before, to save you the trouble of plowtering about on what is now a very wet site, thanks to all the bog restoration that's been going on.

There will also be the chance to go a wee wander and see what else you can find. We'll cut the tree down but don't forget that you have to take it away, by foot or by car. We usually manage to find a few mini conifers, if children want their own to decorate. 

Portmoak Community Woodland Group are looking forward to helping you get the right tree and enjoying the festive fayre, including hot spiced drinks and warm apple crumble. If you also want to help us, please feel free to do a stint on the catering table or bring some home-baking.

We invite donations for the trees and baking but there are no fixed prices. Just what you can afford and in cash, please, as we’re not (quite) yet digital in the wood. 

We hope you go away with a nice, warm feeling - not only from enjoying the event but by doing your bit for bog restoration. By taking a sitka spruce off the Moss you're helping us create the right habitat for the rare and colourful sphagnum moss. Trees take a lot of water and quickly dry out the peat, so we try not to give them a chance.

Two final reminders to help you enjoy the day - wear shoes or boots suitable for wet and sometimes icy conditions and, if possible, bring you own beaker for the hot drinks. 

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Apples pressed and records crushed

Portmoak apple day was a record breaking event. Good to look back on, as the dark nights set in.

We had a bigger crowd, more baking and more fresh apple juice than we’ve ever seen. Also, it took place on an October afternoon when the sun shone and there wasn’t a drop of rain - noteworthy in itself! 

It was Sunday, 1st October, there were frequent showers and dark clouds gathered on the horizon. Up until the last minute Portmoak Community Woodland Group was poised to move everything from the community orchard, in Kilmagad Wood, to Portmoak Village Hall. But we got lucky. Just as we finished setting up the weather turned warm and dry. 

That was enough to bring out a crowd of around 200 people - a big leap from our previous record of 120. It was just as well group members had spent many hours creating apple-themed baking. The catering table was laden with cakes, tarts, cupcakes, flapjacks and a new tray bake, developed by Graham Smith.

He had kept the recipe secret but he’s now revealed that his Apple Tray Bake Spectacular involved drying apples, melting chocolate and adding icing sugar to one tray and marzipan to the other. It was fabulous.

This autumn didn’t see our largest apple crop but the summer rain had helped to swell the fruit and that, together with apples from peoples’ gardens, meant we pressed an extraordinary quantity of juice. We estimate that around 100 litres went into the containers brought byeveryone. We’re very grateful to all the friends and relations who rolled up their sleeves and helped out on the day. 

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Donations were down a bit, which may have been a sign of the times, though we were delighted to collect £365.70, which covered the event costs and will allow us to invest in more equipment and tools for the year ahead. 

It was also good to welcome back Andrew Lear, aka Appletreeman, who was more popular than ever, attracting a queue of folk keen to have him identify apples they’d brought along. He also found time to identify apples in the orchard which had lost their labels. Group member, Sheila Buchanan, has mapped all the trees and we're aiming to get new labels so that everyone can see what an extraordinary variety of species are planted there.

We were pleased to see lots of young families and the children were a great help, bringing in the harvest (as well as enjoying all the games and quizzes). They weren’t the only apple pickers this year. Over three days, at the end of September, we were pleased to welcome around 150 visitors, from far and wide, for some special Woodland Trust members’ events. They collected the first of the season's fruit and enjoyed some freshly pressed juice. 

Looking ahead, it’s time to ‘save the day’ - namely 10th December, when from 11.30am-2.30pm, we’ll be having our popular Christmas tree event in Portmoak Moss. You’ll be able to choose from trees of all shapes and sizes and, of course, there’ll be more home baking!

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Apple pressing time

We pressed a ton of juice in the orchard last autumn (pictured) and it won't be many weeks before we're ready to do it again - with your help.

There's a good crop of apples in Portmoak Community Orchard; not a bumper crop, like last year's, but plenty of varieties to pick and blend.

Most people with apple trees are reporting a very mixed picture - some trees heavy with fruit, others with none. Please bring any apples you can to the orchard on Sunday 1st October, 2-4pm, and we'll turn them into juice which you can take away (remember containers).

We're delighted to welcome back Andrew Lear, aka 'appletreeman', who will do his best to identify your garden apples, if you bring the fruit as well as twigs and leaves. 

As ever, Portmoak Community Woodland Group will produce a groaning table of apple-themed baking, to go with the teas and coffees. Apple Day is free but we welcome donations to help cover the event costs, as well as other expenses, like the equipment needed to maintain the orchard. 

There'll also be games for the children. If you haven't been before, there's a lovely terraced area in the centre of the orchard, called Chris's Place, in memory of our late member, Chris Vlasto from Kinnesswood. The orchard is across the road from Portmoak Kirk and Portmoak Village Hall. If we're unlucky and it pours with rain, we'll move to the hall, which has worked well on previous occasions.

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Giant Horsefly on Portmoak Moss

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Giant Horseflies are visiting Portmoak Moss and surrounding areas.  Although they are intersted in Horses and Cows they do tend to be aggresive and do give a nasty bite. Avoid if you see them and dont disturb them.  They are easy to identify as they are about 25mm ( one inch )long.

Women whittling

As part of the Portmoak Festival, in the first half of June, we organised a womens’ only practical activity, “Women Whittling in the Wood”, run by former Countryside Ranger, Kiri Stone.  This involved working with birch wood to create mushroom- shaped key rings, while sitting under the shade of the Portmoak Orchard trees.   Kiri does these events to encourage women to take part in a new and different practical activity.

In this case there was a real mixture of young and old and most had never done anything of this type.  She received many compliments, such as from Tina, “Loved your workshop, would love to try more” and Andrea,“So much fun and relaxing with a group of women.” It was very successful, with 19 women over the two days. 

Kiri organises other courses on this theme throughout Fife and Perth and Kinross and you can find her at Woodswoman on Facebook or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Up with the robin

‘Why get out of bed to hear the dawn chorus? You could just open the window wide and stay in bed.’ This was well-meaning advice from a friend but it missed the point.

Unless you get out of bed, at around 3.45am, put on enough layers for an Arctic expedition, pour scalding water into flasks (for hot chocolate) and creep out of your house so as not to wake the dog or, worse, next door’s dog, then you’re simply not trying! 

 And it’s worth it, to be out there, in Portmoak Moss, for the full immersive experience. 

That’s what 9 of us decided on Sunday, 7th May, as Portmoak Community Woodland Group celebrated International Dawn Chorus Day, led by two of our members, Stuart Garvie and Stuart Byers. 

We met at 4.30am, just as the first robins began to sing, and we walked around for more than 2 hours, until we’d identified at least 20 different songs and calls. There were the true songsters,  like the song thrush and the garden and willow warblers; and the rhythm section - the relentless chiffchaff, repeating its own name and the great tit, shouting ‘teacher, teacher’.

 As the light crept in, bird after bird joined the chorus, until we had a surround-sound cacophony, under-pinned by an occasional, unexpected ‘woo’ from a distant tawny owl. 

Last to make an appearance was a green woodpecker and when these ‘yafflers’ start laughing at you, it’s definitely time for breakfast. As we left, there were brown hares still ‘courried down’, sleeping between the furrows in a neighbouring field and a red squirrel beginning the day’s business. 

It was magic.

 

 

We're on a roll!

An Easter event to look forward to and, with luck, a good harvest later in the year. It’s a creative time for Portmoak Community Woodland Group.

In a change from some of our normal winter work, instead of pulling trees out of the Moss, we’ve been tending the living ones in the orchard. ‘Hoorah’, I hear you shout -  looking after them, not destroying them!

Of course, there is a reason for pulling them out. We have to control birch saplings on the peat bog or we’d lose all the wonderful sphagnum moss. But the Portmoak Community Orchard, in Kilmagad Wood, is a different story. Back in 2011/12 we planted 100 fruit trees and every winter, while they’re dormant, we have to prune them to keep them healthy and ensure a good crop in the autumn.

Actually, we did a rough count last year and found that there were no longer as many as 100 trees. A few had succumbed to damage by roe deer. Others had been outcompeted by some of the native woodland trees, especially hazel. So, while we were out there, with the loppers and secateurs, we also took the opportunity to plant six more apple trees.

Dave and Louise Batchelor (pictured) were ‘volunteered’ into the job of clambering over the fence of our new compound to carry out the work of digging, planting and staking. The Woodland Trust Scotland have kindly built it, to protect the young trees from the deer without the need for plastic tree guards (now against their policy).  Apparently, deer aren’t keen to jump into a confined space.

We bought the trees - all species that grow well in Scotland - from Andrew Lear, aka ‘appletreeman’, who helped us plant the orchard. And, as ever, we’re grateful to those who’ve donated money at events, like Apple Day, to pay for them. 

We won’t get a crop off them this year, as they’re too young, but fingers crossed for plenty of apples, pear and plums from our established trees. We did our best to cut out any dead, diseased or damaged wood from them; all we need now is a good spring and summer, without untimely frosts, to ensure plenty of fruit for Apple Day, planned for October 1st.

Long before that, we’ll be having an Easter event for children in Kilmagad Wood, where there are plenty of slopes for egg rolling. It’s on Saturday April 8th, starting at 3.30pm. Please bring your painted eggs and there’ll be prizes for the best decorated and the fastest rolling. In case you haven’t been before, it’s across the road from Portmoak kirk car park.

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Tough work: tough team!

We were delighted to welcome back a fantastic team of staff and volunteers from NatureScot last month, to help with the ongoing work of pulling birch saplings out of Portmoak Moss.

It’s really tough work so we were especially pleased that, after doing it for a day last year, they were prepared to return for another onslaught. Altogether, there were 5 volunteers and 2 members of staff from NatureScot and 5 members of the Portmoak Community Woodland Group.  

It’s amazing how much work you can get done with a dozen folk - and how much fun it is.

By the end of the session we had crossed from one side of the bog to the other and cleared trees from 800 square metres of ground, as well as partially clearing another 200 square metres.

If you’re walking the circular path round the Moss look out for the big heap of brash which was created, on the northern side of the main peat dome. 

The aim, as always, was to take away the young trees, which draw too much water from the raised peat bog, and to provide a better habitat for sphagnum moss, which eventually rots down and creates more peat  - as it has been doing for thousands of years on this spot. Lowland raised peat bogs are a rare habitat, so it's worth making the effort.

Simon Ritchie, (pictured on the right), the Nature Reserve Officer from NatureScot’s Loch Leven Nature Reserve, said: “We do a little lowland heath restoration, which requires pulling out young trees, but nothing on this scale.” 

And he was full of praise for the task force: “We have a hardy, dedicated bunch of volunteers who help us with a lot of habitat management on the reserve and it’s great to spread our resources onto other local community projects.”

PCWG can only agree and thank them wholeheartedly for the tremendous effort they put in. We hope it won’t be too long before we see them again.

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And a Happy New Year!

We celebrated Christmas in our usual way, with a big, family Xmas tree event, at which Santa's helpers served up lots of festive baking. Calories which might have been shed, through the whole business of finding a tree and lugging it home, were amply replaced by shortbread, warm apple crumbles, blueberry muffins and cake, setting the tone for the rest of the holiday.

It’s traditional for everyone to argue over which is the perfect tree and because we like a happy ending our solution is to let children take a wee tree of their own, which helps to keep the peace. 

Once again, the event was well attended with 159 people turning up, including more young families than ever. We were slightly worried that a hard frost on December 11th would put people off but it was a beautiful sunny day and, with snow on the hills all around us, folk were really in a festive mood.

We are grateful for very generous donations amounting to just over  £1,000  which will go towards various projects and equipment for our work in the woods. 

This event has become a fixture in many calendars and, speaking of which, we were pleased to sell around a dozen of our own, created by Michael McGinnes from Kinnesswood, and featuring pictures of wildlife in our woodlands.

Michael has also organised the first event of the new year, a day of birch pulling in the Moss by NatureScot staff and volunteers, on Wednesday January 18th. We're delighted to welcome them back, for this really tough job, and some of the Portmoak Community Woodland Group will be working alongside them. Please give us a wave, if you're passing. 

As ever, removing the birch saplings, as well as the 'Xmas tree' spruce, from the peat bog, is all part of our restoration project.

We had hoped that, this month, we would be looking forward to our Burns ceilidh but regretfully we are unable to go ahead with it, due to a number of circumstances beyond our control.

Of course, we’ll be lining up lots of other events and your suggestions are always welcome, as is your attendance at our friendly meetings at 7.30pm, on the third Tuesday of each month, in the Well Inn, Scotlandwell. 

We wish you a very happy 2023.

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Festive fun: Xmas trees and Burns ceilidh

We haven’t had much seasonal weather but nonetheless Christmas is A-comin’ - as the song goes - and it’s time to think about trees.

Our Christmas tree event this year will be on Sunday, December 11th, from 11.30am - 2.30pm, in Portmoak Moss and will feature home-baking, hot drinks and - yes - trees.

There’s a slight change to the normal process but you still come to the main Scotlandwell entrance to the Moss, where you will be greeted and directed along the path to ‘Shep’s bench’. Then you will have a choice between finding a conifer that you like and asking a member of Portmoak Community Woodland Group to cut it down -  or selecting a freshly cut tree.

Regulars will know that we are gradually removing trees from the raised peat dome, as part of the restoration programme. Trees dry out the peat so we don’t want too many growing there.

This means that the tree line is now further away from the main path and to save people having to traipse across the bog we’re going to cut more down just before the event, with a smaller selection of standing trees not far from the bench.

There will be plenty of volunteers to keep you right and serve up refreshments. Many people combine the event with getting the kids and dogs out and we love seeing everyone getting into the Christmas spirit and arguing over the choice of tree.

There’s no price ticket on the trees but we invite donations towards woodland group funds, for spending on other events and on equipment, to help with our work in the Moss. Please bring cash, as we are not digital out in the wood, and remember that you’ll need to take your own tree away. 

After all the Christmas cheer, January can be a bleak prospect. But fear not. We’re bringing back the popular Burns’ Ceilidh when we’ll let our hair down to one of Scotland’s top dance bands, Ceilidh Minogue.

It’ll be in Portmoak Village Hall at 7.30pm, on January 21st, and there’ll be haggis, neeps and tatties, as well as some of your favourite Burns’ poems and songs. Please keep an eye on our Portmoak Community Woodland Facebook page for ticket details. 

We hope you’ll be looking forward to these events as much as we are and it’ll be great to celebrate our community woodlands once again.

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Apple feast

A record number of people came to the annual apple day in Portmoak Community Orchard on October 2nd. We counted at least 160, well up on previous attendance. The numbers were particularly welcome as we had one of our biggest harvests since we planted the apple trees back in 2011 and 2012.

The first job was to pick the fruit and we had a lot of enthusiastic help, especially from the children who came along. As soon as we had enough, the apples were wheelbarrowed across the road to Portmoak Village Hall where they were poured into a machine and chopped up, ready for turning into juice.

Back in the orchard, the crushed fruit was heaped into a big apple presser, which was turned by hand to get the juice flowing. This was put into bottles for everyone to take away.  It was tough work and Portmoak Community Woodland Group were very grateful to all who helped. 

People quickly worked up appetites and there was plenty of food. We had spent the days before the event preparing lots of apple-themed home baking, which included warm apple crumbles and apple cake. There was tea and coffee and, of course, fresh apple juice, to wash it all down.

It wasn’t ‘all work and no play’ and there were lots of games and quizzes for the youngsters, though some of them preferred to carry on helping with the harvest. 

The only disappointment was the absence of our good friend Andrew Lear aka ‘appletreeman’ who had to pull out for family reasons. He has always been there in the past, to identify apples brought from peoples’ gardens and to bring a wonderful display of his own apples. 

We did our best to fill the gap by putting together a display of fruit from the orchard and from nearby gardens but we lacked his expertise in identifying the mystery apples brought by visitors.

The fine, sunny weather helped to make it a great afternoon. We are delighted to report donations amounting to more than £400 which will go towards the hire of equipment on the day, maintenance of the orchard and the planting of new fruit trees later this autumn. In the orchard’s tenth anniversary year it was wonderful to see this flourishing community event and now that it’s over, it’s also lovely to see the birds and other animals enjoying what’s left of the windfalls.

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The Great Birch Pull of September 2022

The Great Birch Pull of September 2022

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The Great Birch Pull of 2022 took place at the end of September with the assistance of Lothians Conservation Volunteers and the Bog Squad (Butterfly Conservation) along with the Group and some members of the community. It was a lovely dry day and 3000m2 were cleared in the centre of the raised dome area.  This is about 4% of the total area of the main part of the bog.  In total we have now cleared in excess of 30% of area.  Clearing the top of the moss allows for bog plants to grow and reduces the water loss due to the uptake by the trees.  Raised bogs are one of the most rare habitats on earth and Scotland is one of the few places where they still exist.  Previous work has resulted in the nesting of Meadow Pipits in the middle of the dome area and this has also attracted Cuckoos to the site for the first time.  It is essential we clear the main dome area and then maintain its open nature. The next Birch Pull event will be in January 2023 for another nature organisation.

We are the 'champignons'!

Perfect weather and good numbers of fungi - what more could you look for in a ‘fungal foray’?

Perhaps an expert guide to open your eyes, not to mention your sense of taste and smell, to the wide variety of mushrooms and toadstools in Portmoak Moss.

We were lucky to have all those things on Sunday 28th August when Dr Tony Lyon, from Kishorn, led 36 members of the public on a guided walk in the Moss. The event was organised by Portmoak Community Woodland Group whose chair, Jeff Gunnell, promised exquisite knowledge and understanding from our guide and an exquisite experience for the rest of us. He wasn’t wrong.

Members of the group had been praying for rain in the weeks beforehand - to encourage the fungi to produce their fruiting bodies - the visible parts, like the mushrooms you see in the supermarket. Some well-timed downpours did the trick and there were fungi to be found everywhere, growing on the woodland floor, as well as on fallen trunks and live trees.

Dr Lyon, who lectured on mycology at Sheffield University, for 35 years, before moving to Scotland, quickly led us to delicate fungi smelling of chlorine, others tasting as hot as chilli and one, called Sulphur Tuft, with the flavour of strong quinine. Not advised for your gin and tonic - as it’s mildly poisonous.

Others had evocative common names - like Turkey Tails, Horsehair and the Hoof fungus, which especially like growing on birch. He discovered a Stinkhorn emerging from the forest floor at the base of a tree. It looked like a large egg but when he cut it in half you could clearly seen its component parts - green jelly and all. When it ‘fruits’ it smells like rotting drains so we weren’t sorry to catch it young.

Some of discoveries were made by the group - like the Bay Bolete - which is both safe and good to eat. Others Tony described as safe to eat but not worth trying, as their taste or texture were pretty disgusting.  By the end of the two hours we knew a great deal more than when we started - not only about the different species but also their function in the environment, from helping trees, by supplying them with minerals, to rotting down dead or dying wood. 

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Autumn promise

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Captain Carbon flies again!

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.

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Community woodlands enjoy VIP visit

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.

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Portmoak Festival

Something a bit more relaxing than being bent double hoiking birch out of the Moss. The Portmoak Festival is back in action this year and we're pleased to support it by hosting some events in our Community Orchard.
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.
 
For the music events, why not bring a picnic (and something to sit on)? All events will be free but if you want to you'll be able to make a donation. If the weather's bad we'll relocate the music to the village hall.

Community Orchard, opposite Portmoak Kirk

New rest point for weary hill legs

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!

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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.

 

Good neighbours

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.

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