The Black Wood of Rannoch

The Black Wood of Rannoch is a thousand hectare area of ancient Caledonian Forest which has been continuously forested with native species for the last 10,000 years or so. People have harvested the trees in the past, but they’ve not been replaced by human replanting rather than natural regeneration, as is the case in the adjacent forests and most woodland across the island of Great Britain.

Earlier this month I was able to visit and photograph the wood, and I’ve already posted some pictures of a root plate in a blog post about that. Below are some more pictures with a wider range of subjects.

I parked just off the lochside road near where the Dall Burn flows into the south shore of Loch Rannoch. There are quite a few Forestry Commission stopping places along this road. I then walked up the roadway immediately to the east of the burn, as it passes houses, the abandoned Rannoch School swimming pool, and then through the gate into the Black Wood which has the green wooden sign shown here. There are several paths, but I stayed on the roadway with brief detours to look at interesting features.

The Black Wood is primarily silver birch and Scots pine, which were both pioneer species in the first wave of reforestation after the last ice age. You can see the random distribution of the individual trees in the pictures. Along with the uneven ground that pattern is in stark contrast to plantations. I’ve included the root plate pictures again as they also give you a feel for the place.

I took this panorama showing scattered, well separated birches on the higher edge of the Black Wood to the left of the track, and the start of a denser, even-aged plantation of pines with mostly bare trunks on the right. The difference between the two types of wood is very clear on the ground. Continuing along the track I left the Black Wood behind and came out into areas of clear felling and replanting, including one where older trees had been left. They did mostly appear to be dead though.

Trees For Life are actively trying to preserve and extend these native forests, and have a page with maps of their locations and other surviving areas of Caledonian Forest in the Highlands.

After these pictures is a short video I made while driving south from the Black Wood, showing a forestry harvester systematically engaged in clear felling.


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