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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.


Volunteers welcomed

Portmoak Community Woodland Group are looking forward to welcoming volunteers and staff from government agency, NatureScot, on Wednesday, 19th January, to help with the bog restoration project in Portmoak Moss. It's hoped that at least a dozen members of the team, based in Kinross, will turn out for a day of birch pulling.

We have been taking advantage of the winter months to get out onto the peat dome and pull out the young saplings, without the risk of disturbing nesting birds. It's hard work and it's fantastic to have other folk along to help with this big job.

Back in November we were grateful for the Lothians Conservation Volunteers (pictured) for giving their time and energy to the same cause. The NatureScot team usually focus on projects around Loch Leven and given how much work that involves we are delighted that they are managing to fit us in. If you're walking round the Moss on Wednesday, from roughly 9.30am to 3.30pm, do give them a wave!

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Christmas Tree Day 2021

Christmas Tree Day 2021 was a great success.

About 160 people came and as well as finding their trees everyone enjoyed the social part too - eating cakes and talking about peat bogs and Moss restoration. One of our best bits of feedback was "Our tree is perfectly imperfect! "

As always this was a free event - but we got many, many donations which we'll be using to buy more equipment to continue our work on the Moss. Thanks to everyone for your generosity.

Birch Pulling Nov '21

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While everyone else was planting trees for COP 26 we were pulling them out.

And that’s because we have a raised peat bog on the doorstep and peat stores about ten times more carbon than forests.

The members of Portmoak Community Woodland Group were joined by a dozen from the Lothians Conservation Volunteers, who specialise in jobs like restoring peat bogs and who’ve had a long association with our group.

Everyone was there to do their bit - protecting the special place that is Portmoak Moss, where the peat is so thick, at least 6 metres deep, that it stores the carbon footprint of more than 40, 000 people.

One of the volunteers, Jackie Howlett, from Edinburgh, said: “Peat bogs have got a very important role to play in stopping climate change.”

Sphagnum moss, which forms the peat, takes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and locks it into the bog. Unfortunately, if too many trees are allowed to grow on the bog they dry it out and the carbon is released. We do have too many birch saplings at the moment, which is why we spent six hours on Sunday 7th November pulling them out.

Both groups were helped by volunteers from Scotlandwell and Kinnesswood, who grappled with the tough birch roots to get the saplings off the Moss. 6,000 square metres of bog were cleared of birch in weather conditions that might not have been wet enough for bogs but were fine and calm and welcomed by everybody there. 

Michael McGinnes, of PCWG, and the event organiser, said: “With so much help we achieved twice as much as we expected and considerably more than on previous events, so it was highly successful. A big thank you to the Lothians Conservation Volunteers.” 


Apple Day: 3 October 2021

Well, that was a long year. But we're back on events again with our annual Apple Day. It's a popular occasion and lots of people come every year. It's always good fun and productive for our apples too.

We'll be harvesting apples from the orchard and if you bring along yours we can add them all together and turn them into juice. Wash your apples, bring some clean containers and you can take away a few bottles. Even if you don't bring apples you can have some juice - there's enough in the orchard for everyone.

There will be apple themed baking (a beautiful French tart will be there) and apple themed games for children.

Wonder what kind of apple tree you've got in your garden? Bring along a leaf and an apple and Appletreeman will identify it for you.

Sunday 3 October 2-4pm
Community Orchard, opposite Portmoak Kirk

(We'll be Covid-secure of course)


The Great Portmoak Birdwatch

We invited everyone to spend a week looking out for birds and telling us what you saw. Great response! 74 species were reported by 18 people in a total of 453 sightings.

There were some huge flocks of geese, over a thousand strong, as well as many solitary individuals. Some of the sightings were of quite unusual species, like yellowhammers and linnets, while others are familiar to us from our back gardens and bird feeders. Blackbirds, blue tits, great tits, chaffinches and robins seem to be everywhere.

The full report is here.

Christmas Tree Day

Lots of you responded to our survey about Christmas Tree Day and the message was that most people would like to get their tree from us. Thanks for that.

But, but, but…

There is now some Covid in our villages and the Portmoak Community Woodland Group don’t want to become a possible conduit for spreading the disease. On top of that, Scottish Government rules don’t allow events to happen and that doesn’t seem about to change any time soon.

So we’ve decided that this year we won’t be taking Christmas trees from the Moss.

Instead of chopping a tree, why not go and hug one instead, and wish it a Happy Christmas?

One thing we will be doing is decorating a Christmas Tree down there. We hope you can find it. For most us in the Group, that will be our only tree this year and we’re pleased to be able to share it with you.

This is a big disappointment for us, it’s one of the highlights of our year, so we’re really sorry to have to cancel. Next year, as soon as we are able, we’ll get back to our programme of all sorts of Moss and Orchard events. In the meantime, we are continuing to spend our funds on maintenance and if you feel that you’d like to make a small donation to our work, we’ve set up a Just Giving site:

Crowdfunding to support Portmoak Community Woodland Group on JustGiving

Apple Day: September 2020

Cancelled. We had a Covid secure plan, but then the rules changed to prevent outdoor gatherings.

HimBal: May - July 2020

Less than previous years: earlier efforts are paying off. Put in another sustained effort to keep it under control.

Birch pulling: Spring - Summer 2020

Big effort to hand pull on the peat dome - looking really good. The Woodland Trust let the contractors loose too.

Early lockdown Newsletter piece

Have our community woodlands ever been so valued? Not only have lock-downers been taking their daily exercise there, from all over Portmoak, but folk have had time to notice just how much wildlife they contain.

There’s plenty of space, in both Portmoak Moss and Kilmagad Wood, to dodge other people and now that meetings and group tasks have been suspended there have been lots of exchanges about what’s out there.

It started with a few emails between members of Portmoak Community Woodland Group and now we’re getting daily reports from our wider mailing list, not only about the woodlands but all sorts of other places.

Although the pandemic is grim, these ‘nature notes’ have been helping to keep our spirits up. They range from expert identifications to the puzzled observations of amateur naturalists. As you can see:-

‘There is frog spawn in my pond - an immaculate conception, I never saw any frogs.’

‘I met a couple of mating frogs on the Loch path on my cycle run yesterday….’

‘Hi, in the last couple of days, we have seen boxing hares near Grahamstone, frogs, toads, and frogspawn in the pond near Grahamstone, yellowhammers, deer, and a red squirrel in Kilmagad Wood….’

‘I was up at the top of the golf course and nearly stood on a male pheasant who was clearly sitting on a nest. This is usually the females job. Any ideas?’

‘4 herons today, female swan on nest, male keeping a close eye on things, chaffinches, goldcrest, willow warbler (I checked out their sound on line).’

‘This squirrel has a very bright tail end … umm … that didn’t sound right. The end of its tail is very light, almost like it’s been dipped in bleach. Sounds better.’

'Willow warblers, chiffchaffs and blackcaps singing at the south end of the Moss, towards the gliding field this evening.’

‘The green woodpeckers and jays are in fine voice (in the Moss) the jays sound horrendous but nice to have them.’

‘Lovely! I was out extra early this morning and saw a hare running across a field at Grahamstone. My eyes were watering so much due to the cold wind that all I saw was a brown fuzzy thing sprinting to the field edge.’

‘15 roe deer spotted together close to the Moss in the fields - though more often split into herds of 7 and 8.’

Some people didn’t have to go beyond their front doors for some interesting sightings.

‘Did we tell you that whilst we were out in the street saluting the NHS on Thursday last I noticed a pair of swallows had re-occupied last year’s nest on the house opposite us?’

‘House martins have returned to their nesting sites in Scotlandwell.
And the first of the rooks nests behind the wash house have chicks. Only one nest last year and 17 this year…'

‘Just saw loads of swallows at least 10 flying around (in Scotlandwell) - spring has sprung’.

‘For the last two nights, bats buzzing around the house.’

‘Hedgehog droppings at Kilmagad Wood.’ (This was followed by an actual hedgehog turning up in a neighbouring garden).

‘Saw 3 jackdaws on Sunday morning...unfortunately they were in the downstairs bedroom.’

For some guidance on what to look for in Portmoak Moss we have commissioned a fantastic booklet for children but which we think adults will also enjoy. We were planning a proper launch and distribution of hard copies of the booklet but as we can’t do that, for the time being, we’ve made it available as a download on our website, link at the top. Enjoy!

Christmas tree pruning: March 2020

It will all be over by Christmas. Won't it? Of course! So we went to the Moss as usual to get trees ready for Christmas - opening them out, removing splits, that sort of thing.

Orchard pruning: March 2020

The orchard has been getting better and better, with the trees looking very healthy and producing good crops, despite our efforts to prune them within an inch or their lives. So once again, we spent a morning with saws and secateurs. We'll find out how we did later in the year at Apple Tree Day.

Burns Ceilidh: 1st February 2020

There were haggis, neeps and tatties. The haggis was thrashed within an inch of it’s life during Bill Carr’s “Address to the Haggis” (actually it got thrashed a bit further than an inch - quite a bit ended up on the walls and ceiling), and there was dancing to the fabulous Ceilidh Minogue Band. A really good community night out and as always, all money we raised goes back into our woodland projects.

Christmas Tree Day: 15 December 2019

Another terrifc regular feature in our calendar where many local families come to get their Christmas Tree. About 80 families came along and had mince pies and drinks too. Early planning: next year Christmas Tree Day will be on Sunday 13 December.

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Easter Fun in the Orchard

Saturday, 30th March, 2024, from 3.30pm

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