“Look out for adders,” the shout came from further up the hill.
Our climate road trip had truly gone off the beaten track.
We were in Glen Finglas for the penultimate stop in our journey through Scotland during the build-up to COP26.
We were climbing the hills – and risking snake bites – to join volunteers and Woodland Trust rangers for some tree planting.
It was part of PHD research as well as the Trust’s wider biodiversity work.
Our day started by meeting the volunteers at the Glen Finglas visitor centre car park. Driving out from Callander, this already felt remote.
But that was only the beginning.
To boldly go
From there we drove towards the hills on some rugged roads, swapping vehicles about half way into 4x4s.
There was no way our electric van could handle crossing streams and the rocky roads.
Plus, I suspect Co-Wheels – who kindly supplied the van for our trip – would have questions if we did.
We had to stop a few times to open and close gates for the vehicles to pass through.
One of the gates, unbeknownst to us at the time, was padlocked.
After a 10-15 minute drive, climbing the treacherous roads, it was time to get out of the vehicles.
But the journey wasn’t over yet.
Running up that hill
From there we walked about an hour uphill. If you haven’t tried walking up steep, boggy land, I recommend bringing wellies.
Thanks again to ranger Gwen Raes for arranging appropriate footwear and waterproofs for me.
This city boy underestimated the conditions and arrived unprepared.
If you took a wrong step on the hills you could easily be ankle-deep in the wet, heather-covered soil.
Climbing up was certainly a physical challenge. I already knew working from home since the pandemic had a negative affect on my fitness levels, but this truly brought it home.
My thighs and calves became numb with the pain.
‘Just. Keep. Putting. One. Foot. In. Front. Of. The. Other.’ I kept telling myself.
By the time you read this, I suspect I will struggle to move them.
Most of the volunteers were considerably older than me, I hope they don’t mind me saying.
They put me to shame.
After a few breaks for a breather – more than one called for by yours truly – we made it to our destination.
We were about 550 metres above sea level.
It was time to get to work.
After a quick demonstration, spades and mattocks were handed out to dig a new home for the saplings.
About 300 were being planted on the day, in groups of 50.
It is with a certain amount of pride that I can say I planted more than 30 trees before we left the volunteers to their work.
In years to come, I look forward to visiting the site again and see how they’ve grown.
I will make sure my fitness levels and attire are up for the trek first, of course.
It should go without saying, but the views were spectacular. The lochs, golden autumnal trees and rolling hills were all a sight to behold on our most remote stop of the climate road trip.
Despite my tired legs, the effort was well and truly worth it.
And the satisfaction in helping such important work was not insignificant.
My hat goes off to the volunteers who put in the hours and effort to help vital projects such as this.