Hello! I’m Gareth, and it’s my first year up here in the woods and hills of Abernethy! So far I have loved every minute of my time up here, with plenty to do and see as our evenings get longer.

One thing I have enjoyed while walking around the forest is stopping, silencing my squeaky boots, and listening to the trees come alive around me like the sea. First, I hear the chatter and songs from the chaffinches and siskins replacing the cries and laughter of the gulls and the acrobatics of terns. Second, the creaking groans of the trunks as they shift like a fleet of ships, masts bowed down by a storm in an ocean of needles. The movements of the forest combine to crash and swell as if the sea was all around me and I was caught in its green depths. And I have been caught.

Born down in Girvan, it is this image that makes me feel at home here away from the coast. I like to think our white-tailed eagles are having the same thoughts about being so far from the coast. They are a species I had always associated with the islands. They are survivors though, adapting to their surroundings to flourish, and I hope I can learn a wee bit from them when I’m here (though I will draw the line at nesting in a tree!). What I do share with eagles is a keen interest in lichens, though I am sure that is for completely different reasons. I don’t use them to fill my mattress (I’m not sure I have the time or the will to do that), but I do bring enough back to the house to find them scattered across the carpet, or used as bookmarks. Lichens have always amazed me, the way two organisms unite to help each other survive, how they decorate our trees and rocks, and much like us, their whole appearance changes according to the weather.

I have spent many years studying lichens and it’s a dream to be able to study the beards and rags that adorn our trees, adding colour to the winter, and a wee bit more green to the summer. So, if you are out and about you might just see me looking intensely at the ground or with my head pressed against a tree, it’s alright I am totally fine, I’m just staring at some of our smallest individuals in the forest. It’s more likely you’ll hear my boots first though! It’s going to be a great season and I look forward to watching it change with you all here, in the largest remaining patch of the Caledonian Pine Forest!

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