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At a recent SCO Green Team committee meeting it was proposed that we should consider supporting an environmental charity with the intention of having trees planted to ‘carbon offset’ the impact of SCO touring.

I was delighted when someone suggested that Trees For Life (TFL) might be a suitable charity to support as I have been an enthusiastic supporter of TFL for many years. The mission of TFL, founded in 1989, is to restore the Caledonian Forest to a large area of the Highlands of Scotland. The Caledonian Forest, a vast primeval mixed woodland once clothed most of the Highlands, but has been reduced over the centuries to a few scattered remnants. Notable examples are the Black Wood of Rannoch, Rothiemurchus and Aberbethy in Speyside and part of Glen Affric.

Glen Affric is at the heart of the TFL target area which is a huge area of roadless mountain, glen and barren moorland to the west of Loch Ness, stretching all the way to the sea on the West Coast. TFL’s vision is holistic: the return of the forest including not just trees but also the various extirpated species of animals such as lynx, beaver and boar, and more controversially, wolf, whilst simultaneously enriching human lives with healthy wild nature. The dream of wolves roaming the glens of Scotland is a long way off and may never happen, however the reintroduction of Red Squirrels is an example of a current TFL project.

As part of this holistic vision, TFL offers opportunities for people to volunteer to participate in conservation weeks which run from Spring to Autumn. During these, volunteers, with training and guidance, spend the week planting trees, removing invasive non-native vegetation, removing redundant fencing, seed collecting and many other tasks required for forest restoration. The broader intention of the volunteer programme is to provide an opportunity for people of diverse backgrounds to make close contact with nature and actively participate in ecological restoration. People tend to find these experiences uplifting, therapeutic and meaningful.

I have participated three times in such weeks. My favourite was in remote upper Glen Affric, staying in a basic ‘but ‘n’ ben’ bothy miles from the nearest road. Spending all day outside in the mountain elements, working with a small disparate team of volunteers with the shared intention of helping in the recovery of a badly damaged ecosystem was a profoundly rewarding experience. I’m excited that my colleague in the Orchestra Gordon Bragg is also planning to take part in the volunteer programme.



Donald Gillan joined the SCO in 2007. Before that he enjoyed a busy freelance career playing with chamber groups...


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