A magnificent bluebell wood, said to have sheltered William Wallace and his army, has been bought by Woodland Trust Scotland, thanks to a substantial legacy from a long-term supporter, whose family wishes to remain anonymous.
Woodland Trust Scotland Director Carol Evans said: “We are delighted to have this special wood under our care. The springtime display of bluebells is simply breathtaking. The gentle slope of the ground combines with the blooms to produce a blue haze, which seems to go on forever. We think it is the most spectacular display in Scotland.’
The site near Kinclaven in Perthshire comprises a 125-acre ancient oakwood called North Wood and 79 acres of grassland known locally as Court Hill. For now Woodland Trust Scotland is calling the site Ballathie Bluebell Wood, but will be taking soundings locally to find out how people refer to it. The woodland has been looked after well but the Trust has plans to protect it from the twin threats of overgrazing and invasive species. Court Hill’s now bare grassland was covered in trees up until the 1940s and 50s. 30,000 native trees will be planted creating a stronger and more resilient landscape by linking and buffering the existing ancient woodland.
As well as the annual carpet of bluebells, visitors can see delicate displays of wood anemone, primrose, pink purslane, wood sorrel and dog violet. Aside from the oak trees there are a number of very large veteran beech trees at the site. Red-listed bird species abound – including linnet, yellowhammer, mistle and song thrush, redwing, fieldfare, cuckoo, spotted flycatcher, lesser redpoll and woodcock. The drumming of woodpeckers is a common sound. Ballathie is also home to red squirrel, pine marten, stoat, brown hare, hedgehog, bats and the common toad.
The surrounding area is steeped in history and gnarled and veteran beech trees line the Old Kirk Road to Kinclaven Church, which runs through the wood. This ancient right of way was once known as the Court Road and the story goes that criminals were marched along to be hung from the trees.
The purchase of Ballathie Bluebell Woods comes after the Trust took ownership of Loch Arkaig Pine Forest in Lochaber earlier in the year – one of the largest remaining fragments of ancient Caledonian pinewood. Woodland Trust Scotland now manages 60 sites covering almost 10,000ha
As with all Woodland Trust Scotland sites, public access is free. There are plans to create new parking spaces to accommodate more visitors, especially at bluebell time.
For more information about the Woodland Trust please visit: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk