Scotland's SURVIVOR Rowan Tree: A Symbol of Resilience and Renewal

Fiona Love | February 9, 2021 | 2 min read
Photo credit: Aiden Maccormick / Scotland Big Picture /WTML

An audacious dream to reforest the wild heart of southern scotland

It started with a tree, a bare valley and an audacious dream. 25 years ago, the ‘Survivor Tree’ rowan was one of very few trees remaining in the sheep grazed valley of Carrifran in the Scottish Borders. The dream was that one day this whole valley would be filled with trees to create a Wildwood. Now this aspiration is well under way and more than 700,000 trees surround the lone rowan. This project has now evolved and expanded to include more valleys and upland areas at Talla & Gameshope. The Wild Heart of Southern Scotland is being revived.

Where one tree survives, a million more will grow

Once, mountain woodland was common above the tree line in Scotland. Now only small, isolated pockets of this rare habitat survive. The restoration of mountain woodland connecting to lower level, mixed broadleaf tree planting recreates a complete woodland ecotone of high wildlife value. One Tree Planted funding has helped create an ecological corridor of mountain woodland, linking Carrifran Wildwood to the adjoining Gameshope Valley. This mountain woodland ecologically connects these valleys, restoring a more diverse ecosystem to benefit biodiversity. 

Reforestation over time: Scotland's Carrifan Valley

Before and after: The first photo was taken in 2004, while the second was taken in 2019 in Scotland's Carrifan Valley.

A Community-Based Approach

Despite the challenging and remote locations, our awesome partner Borders Forest Trust, conducts much of their planting with the help of engaged community volunteers. In the last 25 years, they've planted nearly 2 million trees throughout the south of Scotland, with over 200,000 of these by volunteers. Over the next four years, Borders Forest Trust will plant over 250,000 One Tree Planted funded trees, in addition to the planting of 64,450 trees due to be completed by Spring. The Wild Heart is reviving and the audacious dream is becoming reality.

Stephanie Young, Chair of their Board of Trustees said, "The survivor rowan, and Borders Forest Trust's work, represent the real opportunity to restore damaged environments which we face in the south of Scotland, as well as the rest of Europe, and the wider world. The Survivor Tree, is a symbol of hope for the future of nature conservation, and we hope that this European Tree of the Year contest will recognise the value of ecological restoration."

Photo credit: Aiden Maccormick / Scotland Big Picture /WTML

Vote for the Rowan tree!

For the last 11 years, Europe has held an annual competition to find a tree to be crowned European Tree of the Year. This year, the UK has selected the ‘Survivor Tree’ at Carrifran Wildwood. You can vote throughout the month of February, and by doing so, you will help us demonstrate what can be achieved with 25 years of landscape scale ecological restoration.

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