The Monster of Argyll joins Jubilee tree ring

Loch Arkaig Pine Forest is one of the 84 ancient Caledonian pinewood remnants left in Scotland. Photograph: John MacPherson

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A nationwide network of 70 ancient woodlands and 70 ancient trees, dedicated to HM The Queen in celebration of her Platinum Jubilee, has been launched by The Prince of Wales, including ‘The Monster’ of Cairndow and many others from the West Coast.

By sharing the stories behind these ancient woodlands and trees, as well as the efforts that are made to protect them, The Queen’s Green Canopy (QGC) project aims to raise awareness of these treasured habitats, and the importance of conserving them for future generations.

All have a unique story to tell – some are famous specimens, while others have local significance as natural wonders throughout their neighbourhoods.

On the West Coast, the list includes Argyll’s Dalavich Oakwood and Glen Nant National Nature Reserve, Lochaber’s Loch Arkaig Pine Forest and An Cnap by Loch Sunart, Merkland Wood on Arran.

There are also individual trees such as ‘The Giant’ or ‘The Monster’ in Ardkinglas Woodland Garden, Camusnagaul Pollarded Oak at Achnaphubuil, and Robert The Bruce’s Yew at Stuc an T’Iobhairt.

Loch Arkaig, Lochaber. Photograph: Brodie Hood.

To mark the launch, The Prince of Wales recorded a video message under one of the ancient tree dedications – the old Sycamore at Dumfries House, Ayrshire.

His Royal Highness said: ‘I am delighted to have the opportunity to launch this project in the grounds of Dumfries House under the majestic branches of this old Sycamore, which pre-dates the very house itself, having grown from seed more than 420 years ago.

‘Planted in 1599, during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and King James VI, it is remarkable that this ancient tree is as old as Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Caravaggio’s David and Goliath.

‘These working woodlands and magnificent trees span our nation’s amazing landscape and exist for everyone to enjoy.

Glen Affric.

‘Trees and woodlands have a profound significance for us all – their steadfast and reassuring presence a reminder of our long serving Sovereign and her enduring dedication.

‘Let us ensure that in her name we can now protect and strengthen this wonderful living canopy for the next seventy years and, hopefully, way beyond. And, above all, let us ensure that future generations can celebrate and enjoy them.’

Across the UK people are also being invited to Plant a tree for the Jubilee to create a legacy in honour of The Queen’s leadership of the nation, which will benefit future generations.

The Queen’s Green Canopy highlights the significant value of trees and woodlands as nature’s simple but highly effective way to clean the air, slow the impact of climate change, create important wildlife habitats, and improve general health and wellbeing.

Tree planting will commence again in October 2022, through to the end of the Jubilee year.

Glen Nant.

 

On its new arborial network, QGC said: ‘Established over hundreds of years, these irreplaceable habitats are rich in their natural and social history and ecology and have formed the backdrop to important moments in the history of the United Kingdom.’

Notable Scottish dedications include the 3,000-year-old Dundonnell Yew at Dundonnell House Gardens, Wester Ross, believed to be the second oldest yew in Scotland, after the Fortingall Yew in Perthshire.

There’s also The Birks of Aberfeldy, immortalised in song by the poet Robert Burns, characterised by the captivating Falls of Moness and the beauty of ancient birch trees lining the picturesque gorge.

Also making the list is Niel Gow’s Oak in Craigvinean Forest, under which the famous Scottish fiddler Neil Gow was reputed to have composed some of his best known strathspeys and reels in the late 1700s.

Here is a tour of those featured from Scotland’s west coast.

The Giant, Ardkinglas

 

This impressive National Champion silver fir, also known as The Giant or The Monster, is thought to be the largest in the UK and reputed to be the ‘mightiest conifer in Europe’. It is nearly 10 metres in size, which is huge for this species, and has four huge trunks arising from its waist.

Ardkinglas Estate said: ‘Ardkinglas is delighted to have the Champion European Fir included in this most prestigious collection of trees and to be part of the Platinum Jubilee Celebrations. We hope to welcome many visitors to the Woodland Garden this year to visit this wonderful tree and its neighbours in the garden. The tree has been part of the history of Ardkinglas through many generations and is much loved.’

Robert The Bruce’s Yew, Loch Lomond

Robert The Bruce’s Yew Tree, Luss Estate, Loch Lomond.

In 1306, after King Robert the Bruce had been ambushed at the Battle of Methven his remaining forces fled west from Perthshire. Reaching Loch Lomond he ferried his 200 men slowly across the loch to safety.
They reached the yew, which stands on a rocky hill outcrop known as Stuc an t’Iobhairt (or the Hill of the Sacrifice). They took sanctuary under its branches and King Robert regaled his men of stories of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.
The men later fled further west to the Isles and returned in 1307 to win the Battle of Loudoun Hill in May 1307.
‘The tree is a living link back to an age of heroes, when our nation at one of its most dire moments rallied and produced heroes,’ said David Reid from the Society of John De Graeme, set up in 2016 to raise awareness of the deeds and life of Sir John de Graeme, who was Sir William Wallace’s closest friend and most loyal knight. ‘Heritage is often brushed aside as irrelevant, but here we have something that almost certainly bore witness to Scotland’s greatest Warrior Kings at one of the lowest moments of his life. If that is not truly amazing, I don’t know what is.’

Dalavich Oakwood, Loch Awe

Dalavich Oakwood was heavily coppiced during the 18th and 19th centuries to provide bark for tanning, and charcoal to supply the historic Bonawe Iron furnace. Much of the woodland was underplanted with Sitka Spruce and Silver Fir in the 1950s but, unusually, the oaks survived, continuing to grow under the conifers.

Glen Nant, Taynuilt

Glen Nant is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a National Nature Reserve for its ancient oakwoods and associated wildlife. It was the source of charcoal for the historic Bonawe Iron furnace at nearby Taynuilt and at its peak had over 600 people living and working in the woods producing charcoal.

An Cnap, Loch Sunart

An Cnap, at the far end of Loch Sunart.

An Cnap is an excellent example of Scotland’s rainforest. It forms part of an extensive Special Area of Conservation and Site of Special Scientific Interest. These sites are home to exceptionally rare and beautiful lichen; a keystone species in many ecosystems.

Loch Arkaig Pine Forest, Lochaber

Loch Arkaig Pine Forest is undergoing a large ancient woodland restoration programme, the biggest ever undertaken on a Woodland Trust site. Photograph: John MacPherson.

Loch Arkaig Pine Forest is one of the 84 ancient Caledonian pinewood remnants left in Scotland. This forest is currently undergoing a large ancient woodland restoration programme, the biggest ever undertaken on a Woodland Trust site. It was the subject of a very large fire in 1942, which burned for five days. The fire was accidentally started by the newly formed Commando unit, who had their secret training ground there during World War Two.

Coille Mhòr, Balmacara

Coille Mhòr, a Caledonian rainforest, at Balmacara in Wester Ross.

Coille Mhòr – the great wood – at Balmacara in Wester Ross is an excellent example of Scotland’s rainforest, a type of temperate rainforest that is severely threatened globally (sometimes known as Atlantic or Celtic rainforest).
Its ancient oak trees and many other tree species combine to support scarce and important lower plants like lichens, bryophytes, ferns and mosses. The site also plays host to a nationally significant assemblage of dragonflies and damselflies.
To this day, approximately half of the site is subject to crofting tenure – a form of agricultural land holding unique to Scotland. Coille Mhor remains an important resource for the crofters in the Balmacara Square township, supporting their livestock grazing activities.
Stuart Brooks, head of conservation and policy at the National Trust for Scotland, said: ‘Unique in their make-up and character, these woodlands have stood for centuries, contributing to Scotland’s biodiversity, absorbing carbon and benefitting us all with their nature, beauty and heritage.
‘Our charity is proud to play its part in protecting them now and for the future, and through our regeneration and management work, will ensure that they continue to thrive for many more centuries to come.’

Merkland Wood, Arran

Merkland Wood forms part of a nationally significant wider historic designed landscape surrounding Brodick Castle on the Isle of Arran. The woodland contains several sculptures created by a locally renowned sculptor Tim Pomeroy. These reflect his response to the woodland and include a canticle and unfolding ferns.

Camusnagaul Pollarded Oak, Ardgour

Camusnagaul Pollarded Oak, Achaphubuil, Lochaber.

The Camusnagaul pollarded oak is the only entry from a crofting community woodland, with all the other ancient trees from Scotland to qualify being on large estates or in the grounds of mansions and castles.
The pollarded oak, aged about 350 years, is a very rare survivor from the past and grows in the ancient woodlands of Camusnagaul and Achaphubuil, on Ardgour.
These woodlands were bought by a group of crofters from the crofting townships of Treslaig and Achaphubuil in 1995 from the Forestry Commission, with sponsorship from what was then Scottish Natural Heritage.
At the time of the woodland purchase, the new owners famously celebrated with a dram as the deal was completed, as the great aunt of one of their number had been once fined for collecting firewood from the woodlands.
These native woodlands have since been regenerated by excluding grazing animals and removing non-native species.
Three local crofters – Ewen Morrison, Tony Boyd and Michael Foxley – have also extended the network of paths by an additional two kilometres over the winter of 2020/21.

Delighted at the recognition for the woodlands are, from left, Michael Foxley, Ewen Morrison and Tony Boyd. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos NO F41 Woodlands award 01
Delighted at the recognition for the woodlands are, from left, Michael Foxley, Ewen Morrison and Tony Boyd. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos
NO F41 Woodlands award 01

Dr Foxley said: ‘Our pollarded oak has been at the centre of historical events in Lochaber throughout its  life, as detailed in the story we submitted to the QGC judges.’
The story lists the many important historical events which have taken place in Lochaber during more than three centuries of the Camusnagaul pollarded oak’s life.
Standing in a woodland managed for centuries by the MacLeans of Ardgour, it now boasts a girth of four metres and was originally pollarded in order that bark from its  branches could be used to cure animal hides and the wood burnt to make charcoal.
The charcoal went by sea to fuel the iron furnaces at Bonawe – including making the cannon balls used at Trafalgar. Suitably shaped branches would be used for the rib of a boat or the cruck frame for a house.

The 350 year old Ardgour oak tree which has now been named as a Queen’s Tree, pictured with, from left, Ewen Morrison, Tony Boyd and Michael Foxley Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos NO F18 Woodlands award 02
The 350 year old Ardgour oak tree which has now been named as a Queen’s Tree, pictured with, from left, Ewen Morrison, Tony Boyd and Michael Foxley Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos
NO F18 Woodlands award 02

The oak was alive when MacIain of Glencoe struggled through the snow to attempt to give his oath of allegiance to William III at the Fort. He was refused and the infamous massacre followed in 1692.
From across the loch the tree witnessed the second battle of Inverlochy, when Montrose and his force of MacDonalds and Irish largely destroyed the Campbell Covenanter Army in 1645.
When Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard at Glenfinnan, the oak stood silently to attention as the Jacobite clans, including MacLeans, Stewarts, Camerons and MacDonalds, marched past to join him.
After Culloden, the tree witnessed brutal acts of retribution, including the shelling by the Royal Navy of homes in the adjacent township of Treslaig.
The tree also heard the sound of caoineadh (wailing) of the women on the three emigrant ships bound for Australia in the 1850s, which filled the cleared surrounding glens as the vessels sailed by.
The tree was well-established by the 19th century and the building of Telford’s Caledonian Canal and the West Highland Railway.
It bore witness to the construction of the aluminium factory  and the losses suffered by local families during the First World War.
The oak, by then around 280 years old, would have seen the beacon which lit up the night sky above Ben Nevis to mark the Queen’s Coronation in 1953.