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Recent News

Teacher education: May 2018

One of our team, Marje Smith, has developed an educational page called 'Let's Talk Bogs'. She trained a large group of teachers on how to use it and it is expected to become part of the curriculum. Visits by classes are already being scheduled.

Portmoak Primary School in the orchard: May 2018

Children from the local primary school spent a morning in the orchard clearing weeds around our fruit trees and surveying butterflies and insects. They also had a brainstorming session to generate ideas for how to use the new amphitheatre area that is being created by Chris's Project. A nature trail, dog shows, a labyrinth, and a garden festival were among the great ideas they had. All very timely too as we we soon be doing the required reprofiling work.

Bog Squad popping and pulling: 29 April 2018

This year we're trying to find a better way than using chemicals to control birch regeneration. This was our second popping and pulling day. The idea is to drag the birch out by the roots, give it a good talking too, then encourage it to break down to become peat. The Bog Squad are the real professionals at this and they spent a day with us. We now have a large area cleared of birch regen and we'll be able to compare the effectiveness of doing it this way against using weedkiller.

Annual General Meeting: 17 April 2018

The office bearers were re-elected. Jeff Gunnell is the Chair, Louise Batchelor is the Secretary and Lesley Botten is the Treasurer.

We're in good shape financially with enough funds to be able to keep putting on public events free of charge but also able to respond rapidly to opportunities, like buying more land or paying for projects, should a suitable opportunity crop up.

We looked back on what we've done in the last year and we're pleased with the balance between management activities and public events.

The constitution is here.

And if you want to see the minutes of the AGM, they are here.

Popping and Pulling: 26 March 2018

It’s time for a commentator’s curse: spring has definitely arrived! Which means that outside birds are returning, moths and butterflies are appearing and everything is starting to grow again. All good news, especially at Portmoak Moss. Except the bit about everything starting to grow.

Most of it we like, but we’re not keen on birch saplings sprouting on the raised bog. They suck water out and prevent sphagnum moss from growing. If we didn’t do anything about it, in a few years the whole of the Moss would be covered with birch scrub. We’d lose our open views and even worse, we’d lose the unique raised bog eco-system which we’ve been patiently restoring for almost 20 years.

Time for action. For quite a while birch regen has been controlled using chemicals - weedkillers - which is an easy way to do it, but needs doing every year. We’d like to find a more sustainable method so we’re experimenting with birch popping and pulling. Pulling is easy to understand. The smallest saplings can be yanked out by hand, but bigger ones have bigger roots and that’s where the poppers come in. They have jaws to grip the trunk and a long lever to pop the tree out, roots and all. We bought 2 poppers last winter and we’ve been experimenting with them. Then in March a team from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) joined us to put in a concentrated day of popping and pulling. SEPA employees are allowed to spend a workday taking part as volunteers on a suitable scheme. Popping and pulling on the Moss was a great opportunity to get out of the office for a day and get on with some practical work in the environment. It turned out to be good fun too and we cleared an area of about 150 square metres.

Burns Supper: 27 January 2018

Once again, the haggis had a hard time of it. It made a dash for the door but Dr Carr was merciless with his broad sword. The immortal memory was by Professor Robert Crawford of St Andrews University, who dealt with Burns as a sex pest. As always, many locals made pests of themselves by singing, reciting, playing, writing haikus and downing prodigious amounts of whisky. A good time had by all. Except the haggis. The Newsletter report is here.

Access Road Repair: 15 Oct 2017

You might have noticed that the track into the Moss from Scotlandwell was full of holes. Well, we looked into them (!) and decided that something had to be done.

The owners of the road (a big utility company, no names but you could always protest by stopping drinking any water) have always resisted doing any repairs so we decided that we'd just go ahead and fix the track ourselves. The Portmoak Festival donated funds for materials - a big heap of Type 1 - and a gang of us went down and got the job done.

Apple Day: 1 Oct 2017

We’ve been doing this for a few years now and this was another enjoyable event, despite the rain. In fact, maybe because of the rain - we moved indoors to the Village Hall and about 60 people came to get their apples turned into juice. Or their neighbour's. (Note the punctuation. Apostrophe 's'. It's their apples that got turned into juice, not the actual neighbours).

The Portmoak Time Machine: 23 July 2017

Our favorite Time Lord brought his tardis to Portmoak Moss as part of the "Our Portmoak" series of events. Andrew McBride of SNH took a peat core of about 6 metres depth - that is to say he went back in time by about 6000 years. Facinating.

We could clearly see changes in climate (wet periods, dry periods) and in vegetation types through the history of the Moss. There was even a well preserved, bright blue insect carapice from about 5500 years ago. More than 20 people attended and much enjoyed the event. Espeically small boys who were able to smear each other with some really, really old mud.

Dragonflies: 23 July 2017

23 to 23 July was a UK-wide dragonfly event. They were duly spotted on the Moss.

British Trust for Ornithology: 27 May 2017

Gail the bird ringer(their legs, not their necks) set up three nets in the field opposite the village hall. Didn't use feeders or tape lures (latter forbidden in the breeding season), so relied on birds moving through the area.

Nets were set up among small trees so that birds flying between them would be trapped. In total caught 11 birds, all unringed: blue tit (3), great tit (3), bullfinch, chiffchaff, robin, willow warbler (2). Saw or heard great spotted woodpeckers, green woodpecker, garden warbler, blackcap, white throat, buzzard, sparrowhawk, garden warbler, wren, thrush, blackbird, chaffinch, redpoll.

Dawn Chorus: 6 May 2017

A 04:00 start for a dawn chorus event, led by Scott Paterson. It was International Dawn Chorus Day so crazy people all around the world were making their blearly eyed way outdoors. We didn't see many birds but heard plenty and as always, Scott was a mine of information. Great event attended by about a dozen of our local crazies.

Christmas Tree Pruning: 23 April 2017

A dozen folk went down to the Moss to prepare Christmas trees for our December event. By taking care of split growth and giving them a bit of space and shaping at this time of year, everything is much easier in December.

Annual General Meeting: 18 April 2017

The office bearers were elected - well, re-elected. Jeff Gunnell is the Chair, Louise Batchelor is the Secretary and Lesley Botten is the Treasurer.

We're in good shape financially with enough funds to be able to keep putting on public events free of charge but also able to respond rapidly to opportunities, like buying more land or paying for projects, should a suitable opportunity crop up.

We looked back on what we've done in the last year and we're pleased with the balance between management activities and public events.

The constitution is here.

And if you want to see the minutes of the AGM, they are here.

PCWG in parliament and with the Climate Change Secretary: March 2017

An important event for bogs: the Peatland Action programme has been relaunched. Much of the funding for the projects that we have been doing to restore Portmoak Moss has come from Peatland Action via SNH.

PCWG were represented at Holyrood when the programme was introduced to MSPs and also at the Red Moss, near Edinburgh where the Climate Change Secretary saw just what bogs and mosses are like and why they are important. We were expecting a chap in a pinstripe suit, bowler hat and carrying a furled umberella, but it turned out to be Rosanna Cunningham.

IMPORTANT: Woodland Trust Managemnt plan for the Moss is available for public comment

Every five years the Woodland Trust make their Management Plan for the Moss. This is a big deal: it sets the baseline for what will happen in the future. The document is now available here for public comment and naturally the Portmoak Community Woodland Group will give it a careful review.

The deadline for comment is 5pm Saturday 8 April 2017 and anyone can comment to the Woodland Trust. If you, prefer, send your comments to PCWG at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we'll incorporate them with ours.

It's a big document, 42 pages, with a lot of detail and there are two big items:

  1. The long term intention is that ground conditions over the core area will be maintained as a raised bog habitat. Hurrah! This is a key goal for the PCWG and we've put a lot of energy into projects to restore the bog.
  2. The last large remaining area of Sitka spruce will be clear-felled (going in from Scotlandwell, this is the area on the left). This needs to done because the trees are near end of life, are becoming increasing unstable and there is a heightened risk of large scale windblow which causes a safety hazard and is expensive to deal with on a tree by tree basis. The clearfelled areas will be encouraged to develop into mixed native woodland. Existing areas of Scots pine will be retained for as long as possible to provide a suitable habitat and food source for the small colony of red squirrels on the site. Any gaps that occur will be allowed to regenerate naturally into mixed woodland. Natural regeneration will be supplemented by enrichment planting as required with native species.

We welcome your thoughts.

Community orchard pruning: 19 March 2017

Some of us put in few hours on the orchard doing some springtime maintenance - pruning and maintaining our fruit trees. They are looking pretty good and we're hoping for an even bogger crop later this year.

Moth survey: 10 March 2017

We're really lucky to have George Guthrie carry out regular surveys of the moths and butteflies on the Moss. George did his first mothing of this season on Friday 10th Mar night. It turned out to be a very good night for ‘mothing’ with a minimum temperature of 8 degC , no wind and dull. He found 21 moths of 9 species. They were: 7 Yellow Horned, 3 March Moth, 3 Chestnut, 2 Satellite, 2 Mottled Umber, 1 Pale Brindled Beauty, 1 Common Quaker, 1 Hebrew Character, 1 Pine Beauty. George also saw a Common Newt, not in the trap but crawling around on the sheet.

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Portmoak Moss - Woodland Trust

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Woodland Trust Scotland

Events

 

Christmas Tree Day

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.
Burns Ceilidh Cancelled in January but hope to have a celidh later in the year.
   
   

 

 

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