A group of dedicated volunteers are isolating within the grounds of a conservation charity in the Highlands to save more than 100,000 native trees.
Six people from Trees for Life have been isolating at the charity’s Dundreggan rewilding estate in Glenmoriston since March 23 to prevent the loss of native trees during the coronavirus lockdown.
The global pandemic halted the planting of thousands of native trees – from Scots pine, rowan, juniper, hazel, holly and oak, as well as rare mountain species such as dwarf birch and woolly willow – which have all been grown carefully from seed in Dundreggan’s specialised nursery.
Trees for Life’s Dundreggan manager Doug Gilbert said: “We were all set for another busy season of preparing thousands of young native trees for planting on the hills by our volunteers, when the coronavirus crisis forced the postponement of this spring’s tree planting – meaning tens of thousands of young trees have not left our nursery as planned.
“But nature isn’t in lockdown. All these precious trees have been coming into leaf, and we need to take care of them – especially in the dry weather we’ve been having. Without regular watering, they would all die. We also needed to start sowing new seed now, to ensure a supply of trees for future planting seasons.”
Mr Gilbert and fellow colleagues Abbey Goff, Emma Beckinsale, Patrick Fenner, and trainees Catriona Bullivant and Louise Cameron volunteered to isolate themselves at Dundreggan rather than at their homes to continue the charity’s work during the lockdown.
The team haven’t left the site except to retrieve essentials such as prescription medication, with all food being delivered directly to them.
Mr Gilbert said the team are in it for the “long-haul.”
He added: “The local Redburn Cafe has started local takeaways, so they’re an occasional treat! No one has visited us for weeks now, except for delivery drivers and the postie. We’re here in isolation for the long haul if needs be – together with a growing forest for the future.”
Trees for Life are aiming to open the world’s first rewilding centre in 2022, with more than 50,000 expected to flock there annually.
Dozens of volunteers have helped to plant and grow more than 60,000 each year across the estate, which is home to more than 4,000 species of animals and plants.
In December, more than 50 charity volunteers had dedicated more than 587 hours to collect 1,012,231 seeds during 70 field trips across the north-west coast to help preserve the future of native woodland.