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A Cairngorms Wild Plants 2020 milestone update

29th July 2020

By Gwenda Diack – Project officer at Plantlife Scotland

August is upon us, lockdown has eased and visitors and residents of Scotland, are once again enjoying seeing the hills and pinewoods of the Cairngorms. Before you grab your rucksack, fill your flask and get the door, here is a little update  to read on the progress which has been made on the Cairngorms Wild Plants project while I have been working from home during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Lockdown has had an impact on the project plans with our spring training and volunteer survey events unfortunately cancelled.  However, I am pleased to report that Cairngorms LEADER have been very supportive and in particular, they agreed to extend the project end date to the end of September and I have been working part time since July, picking up elements of the project where I can and achieving as much as possible in the circumstances.  Those circumstances for me over the last couple of months has been to focus entirely on the elements that can be done from a desk! Desk time to write reports, produce publications, promote the film and work on project evaluation is essential. Here are some of the interesting bits which have been achieved.

The last of the Cairngorms Wild Plants publication has been produced – a leaflet on the wild plants of the Cairngorms mountains.  Over the next 2 months, I will be distributing the leaflet to the visitor centres which are open, however in the meantime, you can have a look on line at a PDF of the leaflet (search under ‘w’ in the online publications library).

During lockdown, Plantlife has been trying to reach out to people through social media and online in a number of ways and in the Cairngorms we have been doing our bit.  Thanks to Alison Cram, we have a lovely blog on wood anemones and I have written a blog which takes you behind the scenes of the film that we produced last summer.  The film was shown as part of the Cairngorms Nature BIG 10 Days online celebration (#Big10Days). If you missed that promotion, why not check out the film on our Plantlife Scotland website project page and enjoy a bit of virtual Cairngorms.

Volunteer contact during lockdown was limited to emails and using technology to have an online coffee morning. Though lovely to catch up in that way, now that we are once again able to meet outdoors, I am looking forward to working with small groups of volunteers over the next couple of months on twinflower surveys and also trialling growing on a few twinflower cuttings taken from healthy colonies in Strathspey.  This work will help to boost populations in this area and as it focusses on colonies around Grantown, will dovetail with twinflower work being carried out by Cairngorms Connect.

Other work in terms of conservation – I have been writing up the twinflower site reports, pulling together the flora guardian surveys and habitat assessments as well as working on a twinflower translocation study to inform the next project.  Many thanks to Andy Scobie and Gail Riekie for their help behind the scenes on the excel formulas and advice on comparing our survey results with the surveys that were carried out as part of the Cairngorms Rare Plants project in 2010 and 2011.  This will hopefully give us some useful insights as to how twinflower has been doing over the last 9 – 10 years.

I have also been working with an external evaluator, pulling together information on the achievements over the last three and a half years of the project.  Once completed, this evaluation report will be available to view on the Cairngorms project page.  Vitally it will also help to shape the next project Cairngorms Rare Plants and Wild Connections which has just started at the beginning of July (with the other end of my working week).