YMCA Bonskeid House Grounds Project

There is an ongoing project in the grounds of Bonskeid House to build upon the potential of the woodland. Aims include developing the biodiversity of the woodland except where harmful and thus conserving the woodland for future generations. Being well managed should make it more visually appealing to visitors and the locality and make it a wildlife haven.
Natural regeneration will happen in the native woodland area as and where the Rhododendron Ponticum is cleared. This means native species developing and also exotics where desired.
At the same time non-native trees are removed, but controlled within the semi-natural woodland area.
Species that regenerate have to be protected, and some exotic species need replanting in the policy woodland for its maintenance. This assists the biological diversity of the woodland.
Open areas also need maintaining. This helps keep the diversity of habitat.
Public access is assisted through the maintenance and upgrading of existing paths. New routes can be opened and the paths as a whole can be integrated into the Pitlochry network of footpaths. Access is also helped by improving signs and maps.
As all that grows and lives in the woodland is well documented, so the woodland becomes an important educational resource for visitors.
This ongoing work is itself monitored for improvement.


In 1999 the Scottish Woods and Forest Awards Commendation of the Hunter Blair Trophy went to YMCA Bonskeid House in the Small Woods category. This award is given by the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland for good forestry practice in harmony with the environment. Stephen Pratt was named as the Forest Manager.
The commendation states that a great deal of thought and effort has gone into restoring the old policy woodland for access and nature study for clients, schools and other educational bodies. This is done enthusiastically by Director and staff. The ongoing research will provide worthwhile information. Removing Rhododendron Ponticum is especially praiseworthy which opens up some fine specimin trees and allows native broad leaved woodland to revert to a more natural state. However, this is not easy, says the commendation, and should not rely on what seems to be low quality Ash trees. It suggests a landscape design strategy for cleared areas. It notes and praises the refurbishment of original woodland paths and Victorian seating, and the leaflets that interpret the walks. The woodland has a well presented aesthetic value.



Trees along the Bonskeid Drives

There is much to see even for the person who does not want to walk along paths through the woods which can, after all, be slippery at times or steeper in parts than you would like. Take a walk along the tarmac drives!
Starting at the Dining Hall, the first tree of note is the Stewart Larch. This was planted in 1795 by Alexander Stewart, who built Bonskeid House. Other larches of this batch were planted at Scone Palace and Blair Castle.
Further on lime, sycamore and sweet chestnut trees have been labelled in the semi-native ancient woodland. There is a western hemlock tree further on. The fact that owl pellets and droppings can be found there shows that there is a good flat nesting ledge in the branches above. A tree that has been high pruned is the giant sequoia or Wellingtonia. It is one of the imported trees - this from California around the 1850's. Continuing on, there are four mature lime trees at the entrance and exit to the grounds. Then, down the exit road are trees which have naturally regenerated but have been protected by tubes - being scots pine, oak, hazel, ash and Douglas Fir. However, beech and sycamore have been removed (because they are not native) along with all those rhododendrons.

A little trees pastime while at Bonskeid is to name the trees in English by looking at the labels. These are:

  • chamaecyparis lawsoniana
  • taxus baccata
  • thuja plicata
  • sequoiadendron giganteum
  • cryptomeria japonica
  • larix decidua
  • picea abies
  • tsuga heterophylla
  • pseudotsuga menziesii
  • pinus sylvestris
  • betula pendula
  • fagus sylvatica
  • castanea sativa
  • quercus robur
  • prunus avium
  • acer pseudoplatanus
  • tilia x vulgaris
  • pinus nigra
  • thujopsis dolabrata

Answers were at Bonskeid House (or in a reference source)


Note that the official YMCA Bonskeid House had articles on walks, orienteering in the grounds, and on woodland management (including the removal of Rhododendron Ponticum).


Adrian Worsfold

Pluralist - Liberal and Thoughtful