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Where locally can you hear a newly fledged goshawk, see pipistrelle bats roosting in an old shed, be surrounded by cathedral-like stands of conifers and come upon craggy outcrops?

Monday, 22nd August 2016, 08:00 am

Kyloe Woods is the place, and these were just some of the delights we experienced on a rain and wind-free evening walk.

Our guide was Ian Robinson, of Scottish Woodlands, who looks after this forest, established at the turn of the last century by C J Leyland, retired sea captain and plant collector, the man responsible for leylandii hedging.

Ian was hugely informative as he led us through the maze of paths, which with the undulating terrain and dense trees make it all too easy to get lost.

Ian explained how the climate was suited to the growing of conifers. Although the woodland is managed commercially, many trees are left to grow far taller than normal, as befits a designated red squirrel conservation area. We saw how the population of red and grey squirrels is assessed so that the former can be encouraged, and the latter eradicated.

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The wood is not all conifers. There are small patches of broadleaved trees, though the relatively slow-growing broadleaves are out-competed by the conifers.

Similarly, there are open areas, and the benefit for birds like nightjar is augmented by the forestry regime of thinning and felling, which ensures there is always sufficient open habitat.

It is the diversity of the woodland that really strikes home, not just the 100 or so coniferous species, but the variety in density, age structure, natural regeneration, under-storey, and the wealth of ferns, mosses and fungi, all thriving in the moisture-laden environment, along with the occasional midge.

All in all, a fascinating place, though you can only explore on foot and use of compass, map and GPS is advisable.

For more information look up the Woodland Heritage website ‘visit to Kyloe Wood’.