Discovering the Secrets of the Celtic Rainforest

Polly Phillpot

Polly Phillpot

Outreach Officer

6th April 2017

On the week beginning 20th of March 2017 the Fintry and Buchlyvie Primary 7 classes surveyed different types of mosses, lichens and trees to identify what makes a Celtic Rainforest and achieve their John Muir Celtic Rainforest Discovery Award. The Award encourages people to discover a wild place, explore the area and do something to conserve then share their findings. Here is an account of how they got on by Cameron and Matthew:

"On our first day we took a mini bus to Balmaha, we went on to walk the Millennium Trail up to Craigie Fort which is a small hill up to the highland boundary fault line. We walked on a little and found an old ruin of a small building we decided to study the mosses and lichens on a nearby tree. After that we walked down some big stone steps to an area full of trees and lots of different mosses. We spilt up into groups of two and did a survey on 3 trees in our proximity. The survey we carried out was called “A first rate rainforest?” To start we had to find out the species of the tree, by using a tree identification guide. Next we measured the diameter (to figure out the age of the tree) using string. We had to record the amount of different lichens we could identify on the tree and categorise them into smooth, shrubby or leafy. We also had to record the amount of different mosses on the tree. We used the sky scope canopy to gauge how much light was coming in to the woods and then assess the ground for moss, boulders and water courses.

The next day we studied a local wood in Buchlyvie called Burn Green Wood. We repeated the survey, we found this much harder, as there was less area to pick our spot and it was difficult to identify the trees. There was much less moss and lichen varieties and it was just muddy underfoot.

The last day we returned to Balmaha, but this time, we sailed across to Inchcailloch (on Loch Lomond), via the mailboat, which was a lot of fun and we got some beautiful views of the loch. When we arrived on the island, we walked up to an old graveyard, which was the burial site of members of the McFarlane clan. At the graveyard we noticed that the walls of the graveyard were covered in moss. Polly (from Plantlife Scotland) explained to us the different types of mosses and the little stems coming out of the mosses were where the spores were released from. We also learnt that moss grows more on the north facing walls. Then we walked to find a good spot to do our last survey. It was very mossy and boggy, and there were lots of boulders around… bingo! I think we found our rainforest! We completed our last survey where the results were much higher than the previous surveys.

This proved to us that the further west we travelled, the more likely we would find a Celtic rainforest.

We learnt a lot that week but some of the main things are that Scotland’s highland boundary fault line runs right through Loch Lomond, also, all of Scotland’s Celtic rainforest are situated on the west side of Scotland, you only find Celtic rainforest in certain parts of the world. Such as New Zealand, Canada and West of Scotland, that makes where we live extremely special as we are only a few miles from this rare and beautiful environment.

We really loved being on an island that hardly anyone else was on. It felt free and we could make as much noise as we liked! It was good to be in the fresh air and enjoy the wind on our faces (sometimes the wind was a bit too much and it blew us off the path!) It was 100% better than being in a classroom, because we didn’t have to stay quiet, keep up with everyone else or put our hands up to answer questions! We enjoyed being able to be freer than usual, climb trees and explore.

Overall, our outdoor week was amazing, we learnt loads about the Celtic Rainforest and got to explore some wild places. I hope we have done enough to earn our John Muir Award!"

If you, your family, school class or youth group live in Scotland and would also like to discover and explore the wonders of the Celtic Rainforest and achieve a John Muir Celtic Rainforest Discovery Award please do get in touch with Plantlife Scotland at or phone 01786 448913

Find out more:


Secrets of the Celtic Rainforest

Raising awareness of the international importance of these forests & unlocking the secrets of the unique species that dwell within them.

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