For those of you who have not been following progress on the nature reserve, we thought a resume of the year’s work might be of interest:

The Kippford Community Nature Reserve covers 48 acres of hillside on the left hand side of the C24s road as you drive down the hill into Kippford. 

In March 2019, we began a series of projects to create a diverse habitat mosaic incorporating canopy woodland, woodland edge cover, scrub, meadows and wetlands - habitat which will attract an equally diverse range of birds, mammals and insects.

Advised by the Forestry Commission, Scotland, we planted six small compartments of native woodland, totalling 4,600 trees. Oak, alder, aspen, birch and wild cherry provide higher canopy, whilst hawthorn, blackthorn, rowen, crab apple, hazel, elder and holly provide the woodland edge cover preferred by many smaller birds and mammals. An oak tree alone can support over 300 different insect species! The trees will provide a succession of blossom through the spring into summer, followed by berries, fruit and nuts through autumn into winter.

Four separate areas of wetland have been created. We were guided by historic maps of the area which showed where natural ponds and wetlands existed some 170 years ago, before the landscape was drained for sheep grazing. In August 2019 we dug a pond in the lower field which was immediately adopted by the local swallow population as their preferred watering hole.

Open scrub and grassland are also important habitats and these have been preserved and will develop naturally in the centre of the reserve.

Much of the landscape across the reserve is steep and craggy, so walkers are advised to wear stout boots. However, the 8 acre lower field adjacent to the road is less steep and in this area we are creating an arboretum of some of the finest varieties of birch trees. The arboretum is accessed by paths suitable for wheelchairs and child buggies.

The Urr valley is known, historically, at the valley of birch, and we wanted to celebrate the amazing beauty of birch trees by displaying specimens from across the world. We have planted 20 varieties, including Mount Zao Purple from Japan, Red Panda from China, Bhutan Sienna, Nepalese Orange, Snow Leopard from the Himalayan foothills of India, Megrelica from Uzbekistan, Papyrifera from Vermont, USA, and, of course, Downy and Silver Birch from Scotland.

Of course, native woodland and arboretum trees are not an instant delight. You plant them small (most of our tree saplings are less than a metre tall), then you wait for the seasons to pass until they mature into tall, handsome trees. In 2020 you will at least get an idea of the fine foliage some of these trees have to offer. In 2023 a few trees (probably rowen and cherry) will have their first blossom. In 2025 the stunning colours of the bark on the birch trees will start to become evident. In 2030 the native woodlands will be well established, with the taller canopy trees stretching ahead. In 2070 the sessile and pedunculate oaks can be classed as mature trees. In 2130, all being well, we will have a truly majestic landscape - we can’t wait!