The History and Development of Olav's Wood

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History and Development

For the history of Olav's Wood see:

  • Olav Dennison's notes below.
  • Planting records: The history of plantings undertaken in the woodland is detailed in the planting records provided by Helen Manson.
  • Historical photographs: Photographs taken over the history of the woodland, from its time as open fields, through to its present state, are available in the Historical Gallery.

Olav Dennison's notes on the development of the woodland

It was Helen and Stephen [Manson] who initiated the idea of planting trees beside the burn back in the seventies, as far as I know. They hadn't much access to acquiring trees to plant and that was where I came in. I used to go to Greenock twice a year and had been in the habit of collecting a variety of small, self-sown saplings - Ash, Elm, Alder, various Willows, Hawthorn, Holly and so on - when I went for walks around the country near Greenock. These I planted at Roeberry [South Ronaldsay] where I was extending a plantation for my brother.

Ken Brookman, Stephen and Helen asked if I could help down at the burn and I was delighted as I loved planting trees and I had nowhere to plant them for I could get hundreds. So I would collect a wide variety of saplings when I went south and I soon built up a wide circle of friends who allowed me to collect tree saplings in various places. The saplings were replaced by new ones each year anyway. Often they clogged ditches and obstructed paths in some places so I was doing them a favour clearing them away! I would also experiment with seeds and plant those which were most interesting.

The bleak and harsh winters and the voles and rabbits were a bore but, on the whole, I found that some grasses were the worst menace, as they grew so fast and lush in the summer that they would outgrow the trees and then, when the gales came in autumn, the grass would be blown down, flattening the small trees and smothering them. It often meant replanting many trees lost this way. Staking each tree increased the labour involved and the planting areas were often some distance from the closest a car could reach. However, as each difficulty was overcome, it really added to one's satisfaction. You are always learning.

[Olav Dennison, April 2012]