Scotland’s First World War Centenary Wood

Scotland’s First World War Centenary Wood

A second-generation “Tree from the Trenches” was planted at Dreghorn outside Edinburgh on Friday, completing Scotland’s First World War Centenary Wood.

Volunteers and members of the armed forces community began planting Scotland’s Centenary Wood in 2014 as a living, growing memorial to all those who served in the First World War in which our Forest Manager Rob Cleaver built and supplied the tree cage.

It was officially opened in 2015 by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, who unveiled a stone rest and reflect bench.

24,000 native trees have been planted across 23ha over the last four years with help from school children and staff from corporate partners.

Woodland Trust Scotland has worked in partnership with the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) – the MOD’s property and services provider – to create the new wood.  The First World War Centenary Woods project is supported by the Trust’s lead partner Sainsbury’s. 

The first tree was planted in 2014 by Margaret Murison from West Calder.  Her grandfather William Balmer and his brother John enlisted together in 2nd Battalion The Seaforth Highlanders. Both were killed on the same day during the Battle of Ypres in 1917.

Margaret returned to Dreghorn today to plant the final tree with Scotland’s First World War Centenary Wood Ambassador Major General Andrew Mackay.

The final tree is a “Verdun oak” descended from an acorn collected on the battlefield.

After the War the mayor of Verdun, scene of some of the fiercest fighting, sent acorns from the battlefield to England. Saplings were then sold to raise money for ex-servicemen. During the Centenary period Woodland Trust tracked down some of these now mature trees. Acorns were collected and grown on by inmates at HMP Doncaster. One of these saplings was planted as the final tree at Dreghorn Centenary Wood today.

Beyond the flagship Dreghorn site Woodland Trust Scotland has worked with landowners and communities to create 43 First World War Centenary Woods across Scotland covering over 1000ha.  

Carol Evans, Director of the Woodland Trust Scotland said: “These new woods which have been created over these past four Centenary years will stand as a living, growing thank you to everyone who lived through the conflict, from those who paid the highest price and their families, to the hardworking men and women off the battlefield.”

DIO’s Deputy Commander for the Defence Training Estate in Scotland & Northern Ireland, Major Kim Torp-Petersen said: “DIO’s priority is to support our armed forces by providing what they need to live work and train. Dreghorn provides vital space for troops to prepare for operations and we’re proud to be hosting this project on our estate. It provides a fitting memorial to the sacrifices of the past, whilst creating new woodland to help soldiers train more effectively in the future.”

The Dreghorn Wood features a wildflower meadow, a tree-lined avenue (named the ‘Weir Todd Walkway’); a formal commemorative seating area which we’ve named ‘Rest & Reflect’ with beautiful views over Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth; the Quintinshill Grove (an area of approx 1800 trees planted in April 2015 to commemorate the loss of 216 soldiers from Leith who died in the Quintinshill rail disaster); and groves dedicated by WH Smith and MOTO in the Community.

An ex colleague of Tilhill Forestry, Stephanie Sutherland, won the contract to plant the first phase of the First World War Centenary Woodland at Dreghorn in 2014. After she left Robert Cleaver took over and was responsible for the planting of the second phase – 12 hectares of native woodland (planted last year).

Forest Manager, Robert Cleaver commented:

“We regularly work creating new woodlands that benefit the owners, society and the environment alike. Working on this woodland creation project was particularly rewarding as these woodlands also serve as a memorial to the sacrifices of the past, and create somewhere for future soldiers to train. It was an honour to witness Margaret planting the final tree, grown from the descendant of an oak tree from the Verdun battlefields in northern France.”