Countryside Trust volunteers winning war on Victorian plant legacy!
For over two years now, a fierce battle has been taking place in the picturesque hamlet of Stronachlachar on the banks of Loch Katrine. Loch Lomond and The Trossachs Countryside Trust is tackling rhododendron ponticum, a Victorian plant legacy that is single handily dominating and threatening traditional Scottish landscapes whilst choking the life from native species and wildlife habitats. Funded by the players of People’s Postcode Lottery and the National Park Natural Heritage Grant Scheme, Countryside Trust volunteers and contractors have now managed to clear an area covering 6.6 hectares, the size of 8 football pitches and their efforts are now starting to show positive results.
With the rhododendron now cleared, stunning views of Loch Katrine have now been revealed. There are signs of new growth with native species making a return to the area where previously they struggled to survive.
Introduced in the mid eighteenth century, rhododendron ponticum was much sought after by Victorians who planted the invasive species in country estates and woodland gardens only for it to spread to native woodlands causing long term devastation. Originally grown for its spectacular foliage, rhododendron creeps into large areas and starves natural species of light whilst leaching essential nutrients from the ground leaving earth dry and barren.
Speaking about the project, Natalie Stevenson from The Countryside Trust, said: “Focussing our efforts in Stronachlachar, we have trialled a number of different techniques to help tackle this invasive plant including stem injection and mechanical flailing. The nature of rhododendron means it has spread over the years and slowly destroyed large areas of some of our most precious landscapes. Tackling this persistent species requires long term commitment and dedication. I’m pleased to see after two years, the hard work of both our contractors and volunteers is paying off and signs of new native species growth is really encouraging. Working together with conservation organisations, landowners and communities is really the key to restoring key habitats and I’m thrilled we’re making progress in some of the most iconic sites in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.”
Contractor, Kevin Unitt worked with landowner Scottish Water to help clear the area:
“Over the years, we really have experienced all the best elements Scotland has to offer and it is down to the dedication of our remarkable volunteers that we are seeing positive signs of recovery now. Rhododendron is a tough opponent but can be tackled as part of a coercive effort. We still face ongoing challenges in other areas of the National Park and as we continue the fight, I would encourage volunteers to sign up to help create a new legacy that celebrates some of the finest native landscape Scotland has to offer.”
The project in Stronachlachar is part of a larger strategy for tackling invasive species and is one of five commitments outlined in WildPark 2020, an action plan for nature conservation in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. The Countryside Trust is working alongside the National Park Authority to achieve these commitments and to contribute to the restoration of the Great Trossachs Forest. A project led by Forestry Commission Scotland, BP, RSPB Scotland and the Woodland Trust Scotland that will see the regeneration of native woodland stretching over 160 square kilometres, equal to the size of Glasgow.
1. The Countryside Trust is an organisation working to safeguard the landscape and rich wildlife found in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. Their work includes habitat restoration, invasive species management and outdoor health projects. For more information visit www. Trustinthepark.org
2. Interviews with Natalie Stevenson available on request. Contact Ruth Crosbie on 07788234571 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
3. To view WildPark 2020 visit www.lochlomond-trossachs.org
4. For more information about the People’s Postcode Lottery visit www.postcodelottery.co.uk
5. For more information about the Great Trossachs Forest visit www.thegreattrossachsforest.co.uk
Many thanks to the ScottishPower Foundation who have also previously supported this project.