In the Canyons of the Clyde
Clyde Valley Woodlands
Size: 504.7 ha
Conservation Ranking: SAC, 11 SSSIs – Avondale, Cartland Crags, Cleghorn Glen, Fiddlers Gill, Garrion Gill, Gills Burn and Mares Gill, Hamilton High Parks, Jock’s Gill Wood, Nethan Gorge, Townhead Burn, Upper Nethan Valley Woods. Hamilton High Parks is part of Chatelherault Country Park and sections of Garrion Gill, Nethan Gorge and Upper Nethan Valley are managed as wildlife reserves by the Scottish Wildlife Trust
Many superb ancient woodlands sit close to towns such as Lanark, Carluke and Hamilton. The 11 different ‘Tilio-Acerion’ ash-and-elm dominated gorge woodlands in the Core Forest Sites project grow where the landscape has been sliced through by river-worn canyons. Nowhere else in Scotland has such a fine spread of gorges cloaked in native trees.
What’s special about them?
Because, in the past, they have been difficult to get into and work in, parts of these woods have been relatively undisturbed. One result is that there’s plenty of dead wood to feed and shelter wood-dwelling insects. Open areas within the woods and the mix of different ages of tree boosts variety of both invertebrates - such as beetles - and birds.
Getting technical: despite the ‘Tilio’ (which refers to lime) in the scientific description of these woods, there’s no native lime here. The area is beyond that tree’s northern limit. But the ground flora is nevertheless typical of ‘Tilio-Acerion’ woods. It includes some species that are uncommon in Scotland and are usually found further south, such as Herb Paris and pendulous sedge.
The Clyde Valley Woodlands roll-call of Sites of Special Scientific Interest alone gives some idea of their concentration of woodland richness. Add the fact that some of these woods, such as near New Lanark, have huge amenity value for walkers, and you’ve a winning combination for nature and people.
What was up?
With so many woods, growing in steep places close to human settlements, you’d expect a big range of challenges. And you’d be right. Before Core, there was:
- A need for management agreements to sustain longer-term conservation at most sites
- Need for linkage of management plans and monitoring to secure long-term goals
- Rhododendron spreading and shading out native trees at 4 sites
- Exotic broadleaves such as sycamore and beech invading all sites
- Grazing up to boundary of woods restricting potential for expansion at 8 sites
- Planted exotic conifer displacing native woodland at 3 sites
- Thickets of snowberry displacing native trees at 4 sites
- Limited age-range and variety of woodland structure (because of grazing, lack of management and rhododendron invasion and other threats) at 3 sites
- Lack of native tree re-generation, even after some threats tackled, at 4 sites
- Open areas of grassland and scrub associated with woodlands at risk of loss through spread of trees
- Eleven separate woodland areas and 104 different owners, with large differences between owners in awareness of woodland conservation and management. So a need for wide-scale liaison to develop vision and work in partnership.
- Domestic waste and other rubbish dumped and detracting from amenity and conservation value at 2 sites
- Research needed because of lack of technical understanding of management practices needed for care of ‘Tilio-Acerion’ woodland in Scotland.
- General lack of recognition of conservation value of the Clyde Valley woodlands and limited understanding of what positive management could entail.
What’s been done?
- Appointment of Clyde Valley Woodlands Project Officer and assistant
- Negotiation of management agreements with many owners
- 10 SSSI management plans produced
- Rhododendron eradicated from 4.7ha
- Exotic broadleaved trees removed from 163ha
- Control of stock access trough fencing and other work to protect more than 300 ha from livestock grazing by livestock
- Removal of exotic conifers from more than 1 ha
- Snowberry removed from 0.5 ha
- Ground prepared for regeneration in about 1 ha
- Forestry work, such as thinning to improve woodland structural diversity, in 16.5 ha
- Native trees planted to extend woodland in 6.6 ha
- Meadows and scrub beside woodlands protected through more than 2.6 km of fencing
- 260m of fencing erected and 150 tonnes of rubbish and 5 burnt-out cars removed from 14.7 ha
- Research commissioned on factors that influence the recruitment of tree seedling within upper mixed ashwoods in the Clyde Valley
- 7 interpretive panels produced to explain the value of woods within the SAC
- Many woodland events and presentations
- Newsletters made available on web and in hard copies
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