A WALK AROUND THE DRIVES
Start at the Stewart Larch outside the dining room. The Stewart Larch was planted in 1795 by Alexander Stewart, the initial owner and builder of the property. This tree was among a batch of the first larch brought into the country and planted at locations such as Scone Palace and Blair Castle.
The House was situated on this prominent site to take advantage of the natural 'romantic' situation, overlooking the River Tummel, with views to the South-East. As you walk down the In-drive, notice the pond and wetland below. The stones in the burn provide sites for damsel flies to lay their eggs. This is a wildlife haven for breeding frogs, toads, and smooth newts. The south facing bank holds breeding colonies of slow worms. At night the mature conifers house calling Tawny owls.
Stop at the long sweeping curve in the drive beyond the car park, and look back at the House. There is an area of grass where the horse-drawn carriages pulled in to admire a view of the House. The Rhododendrons have been cut back to expose the view.
Further along the drive you can look down on the right into the ancient semi-native woodland. This marks the Southern limit of the tree planting policy. The Lime, Sycamore and Sweet Chestnut trees are labelled.
Continue along the drive. On the corner you will find a mature Western Hemlock. Owl pellets and droppings can occasionaily be found under the tree. A sign that a good flat nesting ledge exists high in the branches above,
The most stunning tree in the Grounds is probably the Wellingtonia or Giant Sequoia, half way along the In straight. This tree originates from Calilornia and was probably planted in the 1850's. The tree has been high pruned to take out the dead wood.
Where the drives meet the B road, you will see 4 mature Lime trees. The lime is the tallest of the broadleaf trees, and was often planted next to roads to form 'avenues', and for shade and to improve air quality.
Continue on to the Out-drive. Notice that the lodge was built so it could monitor both the In and Out drives. It was a money saving option during the build of the main house.
As you walk back towards the main house you will notice extensive removal of rhododendrons and non native species such as Beech and Sycamore. The tubes contain naturally regeneration of Scots Pine, Oak Birch, Hazel, Ash, and some Douglas Fir. These small plants must be protected or else we would lose them overnight to resident Roe deer.
|1. Well||2. Culvert||3. Cutting||4. Rock outcrop|
|5. Gate||6. Seat||7. Bridge||8. Burn end|
|9. Gate||10. Path junction||11. Dead tree||12. Crag Top|
This is an area of hazel coppice. Coppicing is a traditional form of woodland management where trees are cut to near ground level and then allowed to grow again. The stump sends up new shoots and becomes a stool from which the young stems can be cut periodically at 15-30 year intervals depending on the tree species. Coppice materials had a variety of uses, many of which have now largely disappeared. These included charcoal making, the production of walking sticks and the manufacture of wooden implements such as hay rakes. At Bonskeid it is thought the coppice was cut to produce materials for basket making. Other areas of both hazel and alder coppice are on the estate.
Roe deer are common at Bonskeid, but this particular area is a good point to look out for them, especially early in the morning. There are plenty of signs of deer around, particularly deer 'slots' (footprints) in the wet mud near the burn. There are also deer paths, being small tracks which the deer use regularly were the vegetation is somewhat flattened and the shrubby plants have been Powsed. The Powsing by deer has stopped young trees becoming established, except in the most inaccessible areas. Any new trees will have to be planted in protective tubes.
Dead trees form an important part of the woodland since many insects and other invertePates live in the dead wood or under the peeling bark. The tree here has holes in its caused by great spotted woodpeckers searching for beetle grubs etc.. Trees such as this are also used by hole-nesting birds and can also provide as roost sites for bats.
The banks of the River Tummel with their overhanging trees and rocky edges provide idea habitat for otter, and otter 'spraints' (droppings) have been found on the large rocks in the river (these spraints are inoffensive and smell faintly fishy.)
Mink also occur on the Bonskeid estate. These are not native, but descended from fur farm mink which escaped or were deliberately released into the Pitish countryside. The species has now spread throughout the Pitish Isles. They are considerably smaller than the native otter, to which they are related, and their droppings are black and tarry in appearance and smell awful.
This dead birch has been killed by the birch polypore fungus which grows on it. The name 'polypore' refers to the sponge like appearance of the underside. The fungus is a parasite which attacks living birch trees and eventually kils them; it then feeds on the dead wood. Its other name is the 'razor-strop' fungus because it was once used to sharpen the old fashioned cut throat razors.
Holes can be seen at the base of the tree, these are used as nut stores, probably by wood mice. On the ground, especially on the tops of the mossy hammocks, can be found the remains of nuts and cherry stones which have been nibbled by mice.
There is a good view of the woodland and the river from this point. This part of the Bonskeid estate has probably always been wooded since the land is too steep and rocky for use as farmland. Most of the ancient, semi-natural woodlands in Perthshire are found in similar locations. The woodland is classed as semi-natural because it has been managed. Exotic conifers have been planted into the woodland, for example the large western hemlocks growing nearby, and parts of the woodland have been coppiced. Because the woodland is old and relatively undisturbed it supports a wide range of woodland wildflowers which are best seen during the spring. Some of these are restricted in their distribution to ancient semi-natural woodlands, so it is important that areas such as this are conserved.
The woodland has a thin soil layer over loose rocks and underlying bedrocks, which means that trees can only form shallow rooting systems. This makes them vulnerable to strong winds as can be seen in this area where several trees have fallen. The root plates of these fallen trees show just how shallow the root systems are.
In general the fallen trees are left on site unless they pose a hazard to visitors, since dead wood is such an important part of the woodland.
Several of the trees still standing in this area are elms which have died due to Dutch Elm Disease. This disease is caused by a fungus which is carried by two species of elm bark beetle. The adult beetles feed on the twigs of healthy elms and spread their spores on to the tree. As the tree becomes infected and weakened it becomes a Peeding site for the beetles. The beetles penetrate under the bark and lay their eggs, larvae hatch and introduce the fungal spores into the galleries they create. These larvae develop into adults which then emerge the following spring to continue the spread of the disease. Dutch Elm Disease has had a devastating effect on the elm throughout Pitain since it was accidentally introduced into Hertfordshire from the continent around 1927.
Rocks can provide suitable places for plants to grow, provided they require little soil. This rock has been colonised by a fern called common polypody, together with a range of mosses and lichens. This riverside woodland provides a moist micro-climate, even in summer, which is ideal for ferns and mosses.
The rhododendron has spectacular flowers in spring, and for this reason it has been widely planted on estates throughout Scotland. Unfortunately it is also very invasive and spreads very easily. It will shade out other plants unless carefully managed. At Bonskeid much of the rhododendron has been grubbed out to make way for native trees and shrubs, though some areas have been left to provide cover for birds and mammals.
This open area of healthy grassland supports two species of heather, the common heather or ling and bell heather. There are a number of Scots Pine and larch trees adjacent to the grassland, so this is a good place to see red squirrels. Some of the trees on the top of the slope overlooking the river show just how shallow the woodland is, with one growing almost directly on top of a large rock.
Three buzzards can often be seen on a clear day circling overhead. The buzzard is fairly widespread in Scotland, particularly in the Highlands. It feeds on small animals, beetles and carrion, and nests in tall trees or rocky ledges. Buzzards have been mistaken for golden eagles, though in fact they are much smaller. Nevertheless they are fascinating to watch.