It was a rough ride up but the Cask 88 Landrover Defender – known as ‘DEFENDA!’ – was built for these muddy tracks. Stu, in the driver’s seat, had a little trouble steering the heavy old girl but he managed it. She was perfect for our trip into the Perthshire wilderness .
I, perhaps like you, had not realised that the groups of pines that you often view with wonder alongside lochs and A-roads are not actually forests. It had not struck me that all the trees are of one species and that they grow very close together. This, I now know, is a plantation.
Scotland is not the land of forests and wilderness that I thought it was. Or that we pretend it is. It is very quiet up yon hills and down yon scroggy glens. For wildlife to thrive there need to be wild spaces: forests made up of a variety of trees and a plethora of plants so as to facilitate the development of further flora and fauna. We need green spaces that exist for no commercial purpose. This is where Gus comes in.
Who Guards the Trees?
Angus Crabbie is the ex-rugby-playing, sheep-raising, world-travelling founder of Trees4Scotland. When we arrived he pointed up to the sky and told us that those big birds above were red kites, only recently re-introduced to the area. We saw a lot of birds that day but sadly didn’t catch a glimpse of the red squirrels that are also local to the area.
Gus explained that in Scotland:
“…the climate is absolutely ideal for growing trees, yet large swathes of the country are treeless. That wasn’t always the case. As society developed, especially rural society, a lot of sheep and cattle appeared on the hills and as they appeared the trees started to disappear.”
How Scotland came to be so treeless isn’t worth squabbling over. What is important is that we come together to rectify this. These days we are all pretty keenly aware of the need for trees – who doesn’t love a bit of oxygen? – and of the essential role of wooded spaces for all of the inhabitants of Scotland; plants, animals and humans alike.
Trees for Parties and Trees for Celebrities
Gus then introduced us to Teaghlach Woods. Teaghlach means ‘family’ in Gaelic and, as cheesy as it may sound, there is a palpable sense of family here. Many of the trees have been planted in honour of births, big birthdays and also in honour of deaths. Gus invites groups of young people to the forest to enjoy the space as well as to learn about Scottish biodiversity and climate change. One of the largest, most powerful and, at times, most frightening communities we have here in Scotland has also played a part: the Outlander fans. There is a section of beautiful woodland planted in honour of Sam Heughan.
The reforesting project brings people together – but togetherness is also an essential element of the project. This task that Gus has set himself – the task of reforesting Scotland – would be too momentous, too godly, for one company to do alone. That is where we play our part.
Despite What Others May Say, It’s Not Just About Planting Trees…
We knew at the beginning of this year that we wanted to do more to aid in the battle against climate destruction. Like many of our peers in the industry we feel a close bond to trees: the casks that we so adore, that mature whisky into the fine spirit that we love, are crafted from oak trees. We owe our business to oak. So we figured that a good way of developing our sustainability practice would be to invest in reforesting.
Gus’ project stood out. Not only does Trees4Scotland plant trees, they also manage their woodlands. It is not a one-off action, it is a long term project. Gus explained to Sam that Trees4Scotland have three aims:
To help tackle climate change and ecological concerns.
To repair biodiversity in order to help Scotland’s wildlife flourish.
To foster a community through the woodlands.
This is no lip service, this is a company and a man looking to create a legacy. One that benefits the whole of Scotland: from the microflora through to the red kites through to people and larger creatures.
There’s Always One…Species*
But not deer.
Unfortunately in this practice Gus has developed a mighty enemy. It is the enemy of all those who hope to grow trees. Deer find the young saplings irresistible. So much so that if you want to grow trees successfully you must build very high fences and keep doors locked tight. As soon as your guard has slipped – the trees are a goner. All you will find are chewed up stumps and all you will see will be happy little fluffy tails prancing off into the distance.
Obviously we would never condone violence…but we must say that after speaking to Gus it seems like it is nothing short of national duty to become a regular consumer of venison stew.
*There are maybe, probably other specifes that interfere with oak trees too…
The Wisdom of Oak
Old enemies aside, we have a lot of faith in Gus and the reforesting project. We will be contributing quarterly to the development of ‘Old Mill Wood’ where they now have a pond full of thriving new wildlife. Not all of the trees that grow there will be oak; many will be deciduous trees or Scots Pine. But Gus assures us there will be plenty of oak. Oak trees, he tells us, are:
“The historians of our woodlands. If they could talk they would have many stories to tell…”
There is a spooky side to this story…to watch the trailer for episode 13 click here
If you would like to learn more about our A Tree Planted For Every Cask Sold initiative click here