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Countryside News

Update on news in our three parks in West Lothian - Beecraigs, Polkemmet and Almondell & Calderwood

Christmas Tree Sales to Stop in 2017

Beecraigs Country Park has taken the difficult decision to stop selling Christmas trees direct to the public. 

The service was initially started as a pilot project using surplus trees grown at Beecraigs, and was then continued for a number of years.  However, popularity and demand very quickly increased in recent years, and Beecraigs has had to buy-in Christmas trees to meet the demand.  It is no longer sustainable for Beecraigs to continue with this.  We hope our loyal customers continue to visit Beecraigs over the festive period, and enjoy the other facilities on offer.  As in previous years, the Visitor Centre will have a small range of gifts and Christmas novelty items for sale and the Ranger Service will be running the annual events programme, with visitors also able to enjoy the new café this year.

We have always tried to ensure a high quality of Christmas tree through our sales area and have ensured that our supplier was affiliated to the British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BTCGA), the trade association for those who grow specialist Christmas Trees in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  West Lothian has one BCTGA-affiliated grower and supplier in West Calder's Country Business, who will have a sales area open to the public.  For more details, see their website at http://www.countrybusiness.co.uk

We thank everyone who has supported the service at Beecraigs over the years and hope we continue to see you making the most of your local Country Park.


New Visitor Centre 


Countryside Ranger Events and Activities Programme 2017


Dog Walking

Beecraigs Country Park neighbours onto farmland and many fields have livestock, both young and older animals. Dogs have a natural instinct to chase other creatures and a sudden movement or scent can trigger this impulse in a dog that was previously walking calmly along. It can be extremely difficult to call a dog off once it takes chase and we urge dog owners to please make themselves aware of the countryside law. Previously a number of incidents in the area around Cockleroy Hill have resulted in serious injury to sheep which have been reported to the Police. Cockleroy Hill is not within Beecraigs Country Park but many visitors enjoy the walk and view from this popular landmark. Both the landowner and Beecraigs Country Park urge dog walkers to be much more vigilant and responsible for their actions.

If you do see a dog owner acting irresponsibly or a dog worrying livestock, please call Police Scotland on 101.

We want dogs and their owners to enjoy their walk but to be responsible for their actions. We ask that dog walkers please follow these simple rules when walking in livestock fields with your dogs:

  • Do not take dogs into fields where there are lambs, calves or other young animals.
  • Never let your dog worry or attack farm animals.
  • Cattle can act aggressively so keep yourself and your dog at a safe distance and, if necessary, let your dog go so that you can both seek safety.
  • Before entering a field, check to see if you have any alternative routes and keep your dog under close control at all times when walking across farmland as you often cannot see what is in the field.
  • Avoid causing concern to other people, especially those who may be afraid of dogs.
  • Pick up and dispose of your dog waste in public places, as dog waste is dangerous to both people and livestock.
  • Farmers have a duty of care towards livestock and are legally entitled to shoot a dog if it is causing distress, so please ensure your dog is under your control at all times.

New Almondell Path

Visitors to Almondell will be delighted to know that our new paths linking the North Car Park to the driveway and along the 'high track' to the steps at the Dell Bridge are now open. 

Thanks to funding from Land Trust and after consultation with our visitors, the driveway link now provides a safer, off-road alternative on a gradual rise and fall through the woodland.  Surfacing of the previously incredibly muddy 'high track' provides an all-weather path with lovely views to the Visitor Centre and across the valley to the Larchwood and beyond whilst still retaining a rural feel within Almondell. 

As works have just been completed, surrounding areas are looking a bit bare but will soon grow over with the new season.  Some finishing touches are being carried out by volunteers.

Thanks again to Land Trust and appointed contractors MW Groundworks for their funding support and hard work.


Forestry Updates 

Beecraigs

In the Spring around 40,000 trees were planted to replace those felled.  Many of these are establishing well but unfortunately some planted just before the drought in May have failed and will need to be replaced over this winter.

Further funding has been secured from the Scottish Government's Rural Development Programme (SRDP) and LandTrust which will enable three new sections of path to be upgraded including a link from the new visitor centre and Balvormie play area and two key links through wet areas in the west of the country park.  This work is due to take place during the October - December 2016 and temporary diversions will be put in place.

A hedge laying and maintenance programme also funded through (SRDP) will continue on the Animal Attraction over the autumn and winter assisted by students from SRUC Oatridge.

The next phase of woodland thinning and some small areas of clearfelling and replanting is being planned and is due to start over the winter.  A copy of the Longterm Forest Plan for Beecraigs is available to view at the visitor centre, or via the link:

For further information contact the Ranger Service at the Visitor Centre.  Tel: 01506 848944 or e-mail: mail@beecraigs.com

Almondell & Calderwood

Funding has been secured from the LandTrust to enable an improved off-road path to be created between the North car Park and the Visitor Centre and this work is due to be carried out over the winter.

The tree safety work started last winter will be completed now the park is quieter.

Central Scotland Green Network Trust (CSGNT) have drafted a woodland and access management plan for the site on which Forestry Commission Scotland is currently consulting various organisations such as Scottish Natural Heritage to ensure that the proposals are suitable for this Site of Special Scientific Interest which is considered to be one of the best Ancient and Semi-Natural Woodland in Central Scotland.

Polkemmet

The tree safety work started last winter will be completed now the busy summer period is over.


Fantastic new mountain bike facility at Beecraigs Country Park

After two years of planning and applying for funding, construction started in October 2015 to create a mountain bike skills loop within Beecraigs Country Park.  This new skills loop area is now open to ride and is situated adjacent to the Lochside car park. On the 14th September 2016 the new Skills Area was officially opened at Beecraigs.

This £80,000 project was funded by SportScotland's Commonwealth Games Legacy Fund and the Landfill community fund, via Landtrust and Avondale environmental Ltd. WLC opening night skills loop photo
Image courtesy of Cameron Mason
The skills loop area will provide the public with a purpose built facility to help them improve their MTB skills as well as provide coaching facilities for groups such as West Lothian Council's outdoor education team and the West Lothian Clarion cycling club (who have over 80 children in their youth section). The trails in this area are intended to help, whatever level of rider you are, to hone your skills and technique. They will help you to master the technical features that you will find on the MTB trails within Beecraigs Country Park and beyond.

Please find a quote, following its opening, from one of the Clarion coaches to Clive Forth, MTB Skills (skills area designer): 

  • 'Just spent the last two hours up on the loop. A chance to let it rip. It's fabulous - thank you for turning our dreams into a physical reality that marries up to our hopes and expectations. Could you please pass on my sincere thanks to the rest of the team who worked alongside you to produce this outstanding facility. I know that the gratitude to your hard work from all of the Clarion kids and coaches is huge and that this facility will enable many riders to develop socially, emotionally and physically into the future. Well done'. 

WLC opening night skills loop Sam air
Image courtesy of Cameron Mason
Many people already use the completed mountain bike trails within Beecraigs Country Park, with the red loop 2 still under construction. Volunteers have committed many hours of their time into improving access in the Park and are keen for more support to enable the final MTB trails to be completed. If you would like to volunteer your help in developing these trails, contact Tracey Smith on 01506 848944 / tracey.smith@westlothian.gov.uk  or go onto the Beecraigs Mountain Bike Facebook page for information on build and maintenance sessions.


River Almond

Volunteers help keep the canal flowing in West Lothian by carrying out tasks to reinforce the River Almond Feeder.


Beecraigs Dam Wall

At the beginning of the 20th Century Linlithgow had a chronic shortage of water and it was decided that a new reservoir should be built at Beecraigs to remedy this. Construction started in 1913 however the outbreak of war the following year made it very difficult to find enough workers and progress was slow. In 1917 the water committee though they had found the answer and requested the services of German Prisoners of War. This did not work out as well as had been hoped. The POWs were overestimate in their capacity and willingness and lasted only a few weeks. The remainder of the work was carried out by navvies and conscientious objectors. 5 years behind schedule the reservoir was eventually finished in 1920 and served as the water supply for the area until 1972 when it was bought by the Council and has been used as a fishing loch ever since.

Beecraigs Dam Wall
Beecraigs Dam Wall

Now a century after its original construct a restoration project on the dam wall has been carried out. Over the winter of 2014 nearly 13000 stone cobbles were replaces along the face of the wall. Each stone weighing between 5 and 30kg was replaced by hand, taking over 1000 hours of work. The work will protect the integrity of the wall and prevent erosion, keeping the reservoir intact for the next 100 years.


 

Friends of Almondell
Friends of Almondell

Friends of Almondell

The 'Friends of Almondell' are an enthusiastic group of volunteers who meet regularly once a month to take on a variety of practical conservation projects and fund raising activities in and around Almondell & Calderwood Country Park.  The 'Friends' came together in 2012 and include an eclectic mix of local people sharing the same goal - to make a real difference to their local environment and to help support their community through volunteering.  Constituted in 2013, they work in partnership with the Countryside Ranger Service and Parks & Woodlands Team.  Together with practical projects, the Friends are also involved with visitor surveys, applying for grant funding, supporting community events, wildlife surveys, showing photo exhibitions and fundraising in the form of plant and bake sales.  They have a very popular Facebook page updated frequently by members and providing lots of useful information about the Friends and West Lothian's Country Parks and countryside.

Over the years, the Friends have achieved many successes and undertaken many tasks and projects that the council were not able to due to other commitments and financial restrictions.  Maintenance projects include path and step clearing and construction, tree and orchard planting, rhododendron clearing, snowdrop planting, garden planting and improvements, drainage works litter-picking and spring cleaning.  Future projects include pond restoration and garden works.  Whatever the weather brings we have regular group of 8 or 10 volunteers who freely lend their time, skills and experience.  There's always a cup of tea after efforts along with the occasional BBQ and curry night out too - 'Friends' really have become friends!

The Friends have also applied for several grants including submissions to Forth Valley Orchards, Keep Scotland Beautiful (Tesco carrier bag scheme) and Persimmon Homes.  Through successful application they have planted a new orchard, created a snowdrop walk, planted wildflower seeds, enhanced and improved the Visitor Centre Garden and provided information signs for all our visitors to enjoy.  Current applications include Edinburgh Airport Community Board for improvements to our wildlife pond and support for our grant application to Heritage Lottery Fund for restoration of our historic walled garden. With current funds, the Friends also plan to purchase maintenance equipment, undertake training and make further landscape improvements.

Parks & Woodlands Team would like to thank the Friends of Almondell for all of their help and support over the years, and wish them well with many more exciting projects for the future. If you would like to join our group of volunteers, please contact Ranger kirsty.morrison@westlothian.gov.uk or call into the Visitor Centre and leave your details. 


Little Boghead Nature Park, Bathgate

At the end of 2016, Little Boghead Nature Park in Bathgate was lucky enough to receive £10k in funding from the Tesco Bags of Help scheme. The money, raised from the 5p carrier bag charge, will be used to fund further improvements to the park, complementing the initial works carried out in 2015/16 as a result of capital funding from West Lothian Council.

The money from Tesco will provide new seating, signage and interpretation, all planned for later summer early autumn this year. The newly installed pond dipping platform provides a facility for visiting school groups as well as families interested in discovering the creatures that make their home in the pond. A wildflower meadow will also be created in the autumn, when we will be looking for volunteers to help plant wildflower plugs. West Lothian Council Ranger Service will also be providing

None of this would be possible without the 'Friends of Little Boghead' group, who meet quarterly to give input on how the park is managed and plan practical tasks like community clean ups, and vegetation control. If you'd like more information on what they do or would like to get involved, check out their facebook page - www.facebook.com/LittleBoghead


Balvormie Meadow

Following last year's successful grazing of Balvormie meadow, some of the Beecraigs herd of highland cattle will again be used for conservation grazing within the fenced area of the meadow. Low intensity grazing is a proven conservation technique which encourages floral biodiversity. The gates to the meadow will be closed in early October, to allow dog fouling to be removed, before the cattle brought over a few days later. They will remain on the meadow for up to 10 weeks. They will eat the coarse tussocks of grass and their hooves will disturb the ground allowing smaller more delicate plants to flourish. Early indication from a survey carried out this year show an increase in plant diversity in the grazed area, hopefully this trend will continue in the coming years.