Get back to nature with the Scottish Trees Festival
There’s little doubt that 2020 is a year many of us would like to erase from our memory bank.
However, every cloud – even a global pandemic like Covid-19 – has a silver lining.
For while it has curtailed our lives, we’ve also been able to step off the treadmill, slow down a wee bit and get back to nature.
Walking, cycling and enjoying the beauty of the great outdoors have become much more part of our daily lives than ever before.
And the Scottish Trees Festival, now in its third year and running until December 1, aims to tap into our newly-rediscovered love of nature.
From towering pines to ancient oaks, almost every corner of Scotland is home to remarkable woodland and the festival celebrates this living heritage in all its autumn and winter glory.
This year the festival, organised by Discover Scottish Gardens, will shine a light on trees that give Scotland its unique character, contribute to the environment and enhance our well-being.
And with over 40 live and virtual events planned, those looking to make the most of a staycation or day trip close to home will find lots to enjoy.
Catherine Erskine, chairwoman of Discover Scottish Gardens, said: “The festival is a celebration of Scotland’s wonderful trees and the part they play in all of our lives.
“This year, more than ever, people are feeling a need to connect more closely with nature.
“The festival will give them the chance to do that.”
Based at Cambo Gardens in Fife, Catherine has witnessed first hand how people have been getting back to nature this year.
She said: “We’ve seen a big increase in the number of young families getting out and about and enjoying the woodlands and gardens.
“Many of them live locally – lockdown has given people a chance to find out what’s on their doorstep.
“It’s lovely to see and we hope it continues, long after the coronavirus.”
The trees festival is aptly timed for Discover Scottish Gardens nursery members to make the most of the planting season too.
Catherine added: “At the start of lockdown, everyone was feeling the pinch.
“But our members quickly found ways to get their products to customers who were spending more time in their gardens, including click and collect and mail order.
“Because people haven’t been going out as much or going abroad, some have had more money to spend so our businesses are recovering more quickly than they expected to initially.
“With November being the best time to plant trees, we hope people will enjoy the festival and buy their own wee slice of Scotland to plant as a reminder to take life a wee bit easier and appreciate the outdoors, year round.”
The best thing about our woodlands is that they’re open to explore, no matter what happens in the coming months with Covid-19.
And with both live and virtual events planned for the festival, everyone can take part – even if they choose to do so from the comfort of their own home.
Among the highlights of this year’s event is a chance to explore Scone Palace in Perth, where head gardener Brian Cunningham will be leading tours among the trees that grow on the estate.
At Hopetoun House near South Queensferry rangers will take visitors into the past with tours that weave history and folklore.
And at Blair Castle there will be the chance to discover the legacy of the planting Dukes of Atholl who, through the 18th and 19th centuries, planted 27 million trees at the very heart of Scotland.
You can also enjoy real life encounters with Rexy, the willow dinosaur, at Logan Botanic Garden in Dumfries and Galloway and real and virtual tours with trees that boast royal connections at Gordon Castle near Fochabers.
Giant redwoods await visitors to both Cluny House Garden near Aberfeldy and Benmore Botanic Garden in Argyll, while at Cambo Gardens near St Andrews, there will be wood-fired feasts beneath trees festooned with fairy lights.
The world-renowned arboretum at Dawyck Botanic Garden near Stobo will be in full autumn regalia during the festival, perfect for forest bathing, while in the heart of the capital many of the trees that grow at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh are just waiting to be hugged.
Nurseries, including Bennybeg Plant Centre at Crieff, The Plant Market in Dumfermline and Munro’s Nurseries at North Kessock will be offering advice on what to plant, from heritage fruit varieties to trees suitable for small gardens.
For a full list of events, visit www. discoverscottishgardens.org/tree-festival.