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The Borders Forest Trust
Ettrick Flood-Plain Habitat Enhancement Project
Although amongst the richest of ecological systems, flood-plain forest habitats have almost disappeared from Britain, with a few surviving in parts of Scotland. In 1995, WWF Scotland commissioned a review to determine the status of flood-plain forests within Scotland; this identified the haughland of the Upper Ettrick as one of the best-developed areas of flood-plain habitat and as an area that offered great potential for restoration and expansion.
The subsequent project focuses on a 4 km stretch of floodplain along the Upper Ettrick and Tima Water, covering a diverse network of habitats that possess wide bio-diversity and high conservation value. The River Ettrick is active in relation to a shifting and dynamic watercourse with gravel bar formation, ox bow siltation and bank undercutting. The complex mosaic of habitats includes varied willow scrub woodland, neutral and flushed swards, sedge swamps, mixed fen vegetation and hay meadows. In addition the range of vertical structure, damp and dry areas, variable pH and adjacent woodlands that include riparian, hill, policy and plantation types, combine with inbye farmland to form an area of outstanding natural interest. Local land interests include plantation forestry, policy woodland, agriculture and tourism.
The project proposed to Millennium Forest for Scotland (MFST) by Borders Forest Trust (BFT) aimed to enhance the existing conservation interest by restoring and enlarging the site to produce a floodplain of national and international quality. BFT are undertaking responsibility for the implementation and management of the project's objectives. The first stage of the project comprises of survey work, the securing of land management agreements and the planning of subsequent work schedules.
The project aims to achieve the following outputs:
1. The creation of 25 ha of native woodland.
The Creation of a Linked Floodplain Woodland Habitat
The development of a series of linked elements along the Ettrick haughland, including adjacent knowes, sykes and cleuchs will, over four years, create an extended mosaic network of woodland and associated habitats. The majority of these areas are immediately adjacent to the Ettrick and Tima waters. The work will principally involve the creation of appropriate riparian woodland on species poor unimproved grassland and areas previously afforested with exotic conifers. The removal of exotic conifers and the allowing of natural flooding without intervention will further enhance the conservation value of existing habitat. In addition, the project will encourage landowners to implement appropriate stock-grazing regimes but not necessarily through resorting to fencing.
Existing Designations and other Interests
Although identified as SSSI standard in 1987, the area west of Ramsaycleuch Bridge was not due to various reasons, formally notified. Recorded at this site are two Red Data Book invertebrates, namely Aphelia unitana and Apotomis infida. The Invertebrate Site Register gives the site a B rating, (i.e. SSSI equivalent). To date, flowering plant species totals are in excess of 130 and include four regional rarities and a wide range of northern willows. The area contains flora and fauna that are either rare or scarce at their northern limits. Among these are moth species and the plant species Alchemilla glomerulans, Carex aquatilis and Carex acuta. Forty-eight recorded bird species breed or have bred within the last decade. This includes a high number of warblers. Otters and red squirrels are a recorded presence within this area.
The Enhancement of Other Habitats of Conservation Value
The reinstatement of certain traditional agricultural methods and practices would complement the wider aims of the project and could contribute to the rich of bio-diversity of the locality. This has particular reference to hay meadows and wet grassland.
Public Access and Sensitive Site Interpretation
The creation of a network of footpaths and broad walks will provide access to non-sensitive areas of the haughland and woodland. The resultant location of the network of paths will mainly cross Forest Enterprise land. To avoid species disturbance and damage to fragile habitats, access to the range of flood-plain habitat sites may involve seasonal restrictions. Sensitive site interpretation may include bench seating, bird hides and some form of shelter to provide temporarily respite for walkers.
Community Involvement and Benefits
The co-operation and understanding of the local community are central to the project's aims. Consultation takes place on a regular basis and involves both private individuals (namely landowners) and the wider community. The formation of community and professional steering groups aims to encourage open discussion and clear communication of the projects on-going developments.
During the early stages, a public meeting held at the Boston Hall introduced the project to the community. At this point, an open invitation welcomed the local community to join the community steering group. Since then, a core group of dedicated individuals have attended numerous meetings and contributed their thoughts and opinions to help guide progress.
In addition, the project will provide education and research opportunities for schools, colleges, universities and professional environmentalists. The restoration of the Ettrick Marshes flood-plain possesses the potential to rank as one of the best examples of forest floodplain in Scotland and so attract interested parties.
See also: Project Achievements to Date