Ancient Crabapple

Ancient Crab Apple Tree

This is the first tree I ever recorded for the Ancient Tree Hunt, way back in 2007, so it is a very special tree for me. It has survived despite being totally overshadowed by the conifers which have been planted all around it and also losing a  large branch recently. At first I thought it was an old Hawthorn, but when I visited it again in the Spring, it had very pretty apple blossom on a branch that was reaching towards daylight. I have found several other old Crab Apple trees dispersed up the east side of the loch but none of them are as appealing as this one, which is short and fat and has real character.


January 26, 2017

I only had a very short time to spend in the Plantation today so I didn’t go far. I concentrated on lichens and fungi instead of trees. It was such a beautiful sunny day! The honeysuckle leaves are just starting to show. I did find some new ash trees, actually, which is interesting since there are so few of them on the Plantation. They are there and they are trying hard to grow, but between the roe deer and ash die back , they don’t have much of a chance. And speaking of deer, I had to chase three of them out of my garden yesterday afternoon! I found several more good specimens of graphus alboscripta on birch; I have noticed that it thrives mainly on young birch trunks. The bark of the more mature trees becomes too rough for it. I also found it on one willow tree. Next time I go I will try to remember to take a bag with me for rubbish that I find…

Challenge to biodiversity by housing plan


West Highland Way could be ‘devastated’ by housing development plan

— Campaigners say protected species and tourism appeal under threat —
— Application would more than double the size of the village —

One of Scotland’s most famous walks faces being ‘devastated’ if a controversial housing development goes ahead on the banks of Loch Lomond.

Villagers in Balmaha are campaigning against the proposed development of 22 houses on the path of the world-famous West Highland Way, which overlooks the UK’s largest inland stretch of water – and one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations.

Now a community biodiversity group has been formed to protect the wild woodland site that’s been proposed for development by Rural Stirling Housing Association. They want to have the contentious development – which would more than double the population of the picturesque village – stopped in its tracks.

Professor Dino Jaroszynski is chairman of the Balmaha Biodiversity Community Action (BBCA) group, which is campaigning to protect the wilderness walkers flock from all over the world to see.

He said: “The ancient woodland in Balmaha is extremely valuable, not just as one of the jewels in the crown of the West Highland Way, but as a genuine environmental concern. We’re planning to protect this area with a giant biodiversity project, similar to that in Ben Lawers.

“Several rare and protected species can be found on the land; otters nest there as do red squirrel, we have a healthy colony of endangered slow-worms – all of which are protected.

“Building these houses will destroy this precious habitat and ruin what is recognised by the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park as one of the main tourist draws to the area.

“If you start building houses on greenbelt land on the shore of Loch Lomond, you set a precedent and open the door to several similar developments. It inconceivable this could happen, never mind in heart of one of Scotland’s most well-visited National Parks.”

Professor Jaroszynski is urging rapid action from visitors to the area to protect the woodland, with only days left for people to have their say on the proposed development, with comments to be lodged with Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Board by February 3.

He said: “The developer gave only days’ notice for a community consultation event on December 13, before submitting a planning application on December 23 – giving the community and its visitors precious little time to respond.

“This development shouldn’t get in by the back door. While we appreciate there is a need for some affordable housing in the area, it should not put the jewel in Scotland’s tourism crown at risk.

“The late and much-respected Tom Weir spent much of professional career shouting about the joy of the rural and dispersed area of Loch Lomond and Balmaha – I’m sure he’d be turning in his grave at such a proposal.”

The village of Balmaha recently featured on the ITV show Britain’s Best Walks, with host Julia Bradbury praising the biodiversity of the area and describing the Loch-side stretch of Loch Lomond as one of her favourite in the UK.

Anyone wishing to comment on the application should email quoting reference number: 2016/0399/DET.

For more information on BBCA, visit the website at

ENDS 25 January 2017

Notes to Editors:
The following protected species have been recorded living in the Ancient Woodland at Balmaha:

  • European Otter
  • Red Squirrel
  • Slow Worm
  • Adder
  • Wood Warblers
  • Woodcock
  • White Script Lichen

In addition about 20 different species of trees have been recorded on the site

Balmaha Plantation 1. Dec. 2016 008

Otter killed on the road in front of ancient woodland

This is a female otter that was hit by a car (there are plenty going through Balmaha!). It was found on the 1st November, 2016 at 10.19 and reported to the Research Station. Probably killed the night before.
It was most likely making its way to a holt in the woodland. Hope that it did not have any cubs.

This underlines the need to preserve the woodland site.
Forestry Enterprise Scotland (FES) destroyed the holt in the woodland while clearing rhododendrons, according to an ecology report, in spite of the presence of the holt having been reported to them. The question that I ask is why would they clear rhododendrons around the holt if they knew of its existence?

Does clearing rhododendrons have more value than preserving the habitat and nesting site of a protected species? Actually, the real question is whether removing alien species at the cost of destroying a protected species’ localised habitat or nesting site allowed at all? Lets discuss.



Welcome to BBCA

First blog – here it is!

I am continuing with my plan to map all the special trees in the Balmaha Plantation in order to put them in context.  I have been a verifier for the Woodland Trust’s  Ancient Tree Hunt for a decade and have mapped trees all over Stirlingshire, but I have walked past these special trees day after day without realising just what we have on our doorstep. It was the possibility that we might lose this woodland that made me really see it. So now when I have a spare hour or two, I pull on my wellies and head out. I mostly have the plantation to myself, with occasional input from fat woodcock crashing out of the undergrowth in front of me or cronking ravens overhead, and I very quickly lose track of time. It’s usually a rumbling tummy that sends me home! Today I found a tremendous new specimen of a rare west coast lichen (graphis scripta)  on an old rowan. This is usually found on hazel, I think. I have also found glue fungus on a very old hazel. My tree  find for today  was an old elder, buttressed and gnarled, and growing up phoenix-like from an old fallen trunk. Trees are amazing – they can go on for ever. Who knows how old that elder is, but in a few years it will have reinvented itself all over again…