While attending COP26 in Glasgow last month, EcoAct’s Josh Holland and Polly Stebbings took some time out from the talks to visit the Craigengillan Estate Woodland Carbon Code project in South Ayrshire, Scotland. Craigengillan is a project focused on peatland restoration, tree planting and natural hedgerows, and is a prime example of COP26 in action.
EcoAct has been working with the Craigengillan forestry project since 2017. It is set amongst the hills of the Southern Uplands of Scotland and is one of only seven UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in the United Kingdom. A Biosphere Reserve is a learning place for sustainable development focused on the relationship between people and the natural environment. The Craigengillan forestry project is a restoration programme that aims to protect and enhance the natural landscape of the 3,000-acre estate.
Craigengillan was first established as an estate in 1580, yet in the last two decades has been transformed into an award-winning estate focused on environmental restoration and conservation. The estate features two Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is home to a diverse range of fauna and flora. The project developer hopes to make Craigengillan a Centre of Environmental Excellence that can be protected for generations to come.
Craigengillan is a verified Woodland Carbon Code project and as a result will sequester a combined total of 81,994 tonnes of CO2e over the next 100 years. To date, over 1 million trees have been planted across the estate including over 500 acres of broadleaved trees. These woodlands provide habitats for several different species and the estate has seen the return of red squirrels and pine martens, two endangered species in Scotland.
In addition to the rich woodland on the estate, the project has supported the planting of over 17 miles of new natural hedgerows. Only two people throughout Scotland are qualified to create these specific hedgerows that are able to sequester more carbon than trees and provide shelter for lambs and nesting birds. Hedge layers employed at Craigengillan have won national awards for the traditional hedge laying technique utilised on the estate.
Much of the conservation activity that takes place on the Craigengillan estate is undertaken with the local community and the project provides training, work placements and employment for local residents. Specifically, the project works closely with local primary and secondary schools, enabling students to get involved with the conservation efforts.
A recent development to the estate is the creation of the first tree nursery being built for the restoration project. This nursery will allow the estate to scale tree planting at a much quicker rate. Collaborating with Ayrshire College, the estate is training up the next generation of forest experts. Students are also learning sustainable fell clearing techniques with all-electric equipment, including electric chainsaws.
Project benefits and awards
Projects like the Craigengillan estate restoration programme are key for mitigating climate change through the reduction of carbon emissions, while engaging and educating local communities.
While carbon sequestration is a key focus of the project, the Craigengillan estate has wider benefits to the local community and successfully aligns to several of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).
The project has been recognised through multiple awards, including The Georgian Group Award for ‘Best Restoration of a Georgian Landscape in Britain’ in 2007. Most notably however, the estate won Scotland’s Finest Woods Award for the creation of new native woodland in 2014.
To learn more about the Craigengillan Woodland Carbon Code project, visit the Craigengillan website.
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