Gifford Community Woodland comprises Speedy and Fawn Woods at the end of Station Road in Gifford, East Lothian. They were purchased in 2017 on behalf of the whole community, and we welcome feedback or input - you can contact us at any time on

Thursday, 27 August 2020

Fungi Foray

Saturday 5th September, 10.00am-2.00pm

Join mycologist Neville Kilkenny, Research Associate of The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and member of the British Mycological Society, for an educational and entertaining walk through the woods, discussing the wild fungi that are encountered. You will learn about the role the fungi play in ecosystems, the species that are considered the best edibles, and the perils of collecting those that aren’t!


  • Tickets from Beech and Birch


Tickets: £20.00 

  • Children under 12, tickets cost £5 and can be paid for on the day. Advance booking required. Numbers limited 2 max 2 children per paying adult.
  • Bring a packed lunch and don’t forget a basket! 
  • Please wear sturdy footwear and dress appropriately for the weather. 
  • Sorry – no dogs please!
  • Please maintain social distance at all times.
  • We cannot guarantee edible fungi will be found on this foray.
  • Meet after the Bridge of Station Road at the entrance the woodland 
  • Please park in the village.

Friday, 21 August 2020

Filming & Theatre Activity

We’d like to alert all users of Gifford Woods to some exciting activities taking place over the coming week (from Sat 22 Aug).  We are hosting the cast & crew of Grid Iron Theatre Company to the woods as they are filming a brand new play called Doppler. Whilst the play was originally planned to be performed outdoors to a live audience in Edinburgh, with the COVID situation this has not been possible despite everyone’s best efforts.  But as it has been in rehearsal for the last few months and they are ready-to-go, they have decided to create a filmed version and approached Gifford Woods to act as host.(There will be no audience in attendance.)

Doppler is an adaptation of a satirical Norwegian novel by writer Erlend Loe which focuses on a man who decides to abandon his family and move to the forest. Always planned as an outdoor performance, Grid Iron’s Doppler has been in development for two years with Zoom rehearsals starting in early July, followed by a period of outdoor, socially distant rehearsing under strict health and safety regulations. 

Please be aware that you may see the cast & crew around the woods over the next week or so (& around the village as they are staying locally to reduce carbon footprint), and if you could be conscious of your noise levels when in the woods they would be very grateful. Although do please feel free to chat to the team to find out more about what they are up to.

The company will be taking a 'leave no trace' approach, and they have been liaising closely with our Project Manager Nev. Grid Iron will also be making a donation to the woodland in recognition of our involvement.

Thank you, and we’ll be sure to let you know once the film is available to watch  - we're looking forward to seeing Gifford Woods play a starring role!

About Grid Iron:
Grid Iron are an Edinburgh-based company specialising in site-specific theatre, and a registered charity supported with regular funding from Creative Scotland. Over 25 years they have produced shows for the Fringe, Edinburgh International Festival, National Theatre of Scotland & other partners, in places including Edinburgh Airport, Ratho Climbing Centre, an oil rig warehouse, shops & bars.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Become a Friend of Gifford Woods

We hope you’ve been enjoying our Gifford Woods this beautiful spring. The woods have come into their own for lots of us, using them for our daily exercise, peace, or simply enjoying the beauty and wonders of the natural world. Maybe you have been able to enjoy them more during the time you would have spent commuting or perhaps they have become your outdoor gym. So many of you have told us how much you value and enjoy this special place more than ever during lockdown.

However it does cost money to maintain and protect our woods. We are entirely self-funded, meaning we must raise all funds ourselves to cover ongoing core costs. Every year we need to raise approximately £18,000 for tree planting, safety work, public insurance, supporting our amazing volunteer team, and funding our project manager for the highly-skilled and practical work needed to manage the woods.

If you share our passion for this amazing resource, will you consider helping us by signing up to become a regular donor as a ‘Friend of Gifford Woods’?  We understand that these are challenging and insecure times, but if as many of our supporters who are able, agree to give a modest regular sum, we can do this!

We will always continue to seek grants from funding sources, but our Friends scheme will strengthen those applications by demonstrating support, as well as use, in the village. We have a range of flexible donation options to suit all budgets and payment methods. You can check this out in the form overleaf. Please consider if you might be able to help us. Every little helps!

Please note that everyone in the village is already a member of Gifford Community Woodland, has a vote at our AGM and a say in how we care for the woods. But by becoming a Friend, you will be helping preserve the woods to enjoy now and into the future. 

So please consider completing the form which can be downloaded by clicking here, and then return it by hand or by post to: Adam White (Chair), The Shamba, Tweeddale Crescent, Gifford, EH41 4QZ.

Paper forms are also being delivered to every home in Gifford, so either check your doormat or look out for yours arriving soon.  In addition, we will soon have forms available at our main sign on Station Road, so please direct other visitors and users of the woodland there should they wish to support us.

Thank you, and we hope you continue to enjoy your Gifford Woods.

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Dangerous trees in Gifford Woods - Update on our Tree Safety Work

As we've mentioned previously, windy weather earlier this year has highlighted that some trees needed our attention to make them safe for all users of the woods.  Below is a bit more information on what we've been doing and why.

Dead standing birch trees

Birches are not often particularly long-lived trees and once dead, start to rot from the top down. Obvious indicators are bracket fungi such as the birch polypore and the hoof fungus. Although dead standing wood is an important habitat for many birds, insects and fungi, dead birch is particularly unstable and in a high wind or if someone bangs into a tree or shakes it, the top 1 – 1.5 m of the tree can drop suddenly. Where these trees are close to paths and neighbour’s property, we make it a priority to either reduce these or fell them entirely.

Sycamore trees and cankers

Many of the sycamore trees in the woodland are affected by a Nectria fungus closely related to Coral Spot which is the fungus that looks like little orange dots on the fallen twigs. However, unlike Coral Spot it forms deep cankers in the trunk and branches of the trees and makes all the timber above the canker, often several tonnes worth, highly unstable. The fungus can also cause a butt rot which undermines the base of the tree leaving little to support the entire trunk and canopy. Often these are particularly large trees and extremely dangerous. Where we have such trees close to the path network, we must put public safety first and fell them. If the trees are away from the paths and not a high threat to passers-by or a boundary fence, we will leave them for nature to take its course.


Dead or dangerous oaks

Some of the oak trees in the woodland are extremely old. In fact indicator fungi found in the woods suggest there has been a continuity of oak here since it returned after the retreating ice at the end of the ice age. Several of these fungi are heartwood rot fungi and do not pose any significant risk as the tree does not require the heartwood to function and a hollow cylinder can make a very strong structure. However, if a white rot fungus, such as Honey Fungus, gets into the base of these trees the become very dangerous. By the nature of such a long-lived species, they can become very large and extremely tall. Most of the larger oaks in the woodland are at least 60 cm in diameter, if not broader still and at least 12 m tall. When trees like this fall and they will at some point, they can cause a lot of damage and so it is important that we take them down in a controlled manner to limit the damage to other trees and danger to the public.

Hung Branches

These probably speak for themselves! There are many dead branches in the canopy of the woodland and mostly these are fine until a storm with high winds brings them down. If they fall to the ground, they are harmless – it is best not to wander around a woodland in a storm though! However if the branches don’t reach the ground and get snagged in other branches, particularly where they hang directly over a path, we need to climb the tree and cut them out.

 Chalara, Ash Dieback

This tree disease has affected many of the ash trees in the community wooldand and there is nothing we can do to stop it infecting more trees. Typical signs are leaf wilt and diamond shaped scarring in young shoots at the point the shoots start to branch.

Mature trees tend to leaf up irregularly and the real test for the woodland will be whether these trees leaf up at all next year.

Forestry Scotland advise that ash trees are extremely important for biodiversity. Fallen ash leaves decompose rapidly, forming rich soils with little litter accumulation compared to most other native tree species. It also casts a very light shade, and the ground flora tends to be lush and species rich. Where possible, diseased or dead ash trees should not be felled or removed from woodland, nor should ash trees be thinned from stands pre-emptively. These trees, whether living or dead, have value for biodiversity. Furthermore, some may prove to be more tolerant to Chalara than others, and may therefore provide material for future breeding programmes. If trees have to be felled for health and safety reasons consider leaving the felled trunks intact on site where possible, since the dead wood will continue to be valuable for biodiversity. Promoting natural regeneration of ash is recommended. This allows natural selection to favour any tolerant individuals present in the population. Since this trait is heritable, continued recruitment of a large quantity of regeneration may be required to build up the population of tolerant individuals.

Nesting Bird season

The season for birds to nest in Scotland is from 1st Feb to 31st August. We would always plan scheduled tree safety work to not coincide with the nesting season. However, if we recognise that is dangerous during that period, we have to make a decision whether the tree or hanging branch presents a threat to the public using the woodland.

Key points regarding the law relating to trees and hedges are as follows:

  • Only a Tree Preservation Order, the Hedgerow Regulations 1997, or a nature conservation site designation can secure the long‐term protection of trees, hedgerows or woodlands. Other temporary protection can be secured by means of planning conditions on development, and designation of an area as a ‘Conservation Area’.
  • The presence of nesting birds (protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981) can delay, but not prevent, the felling of trees, hedgerows and woodlands.
  • Work to hedgerows, trees and woodlands can take place at any time of year, but the onus is on the person doing the work to avoid committing an offence under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. Hedges, trees and groups of trees are always someone’s property. Subject to certain constraints, outlined below, the owner is allowed to do whatever they want with their property.
  • Public safety issues can override other management and planning considerations, and even the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. Dead, dying or dangerous branches or trees are specifically exempt from Tree Preservation Order control.
  • If a branch or even a whole tree has become a safety hazard, it can be removed at any time to make it safe. However, if there is a reasonable way of removing the safety risk while allowing the birds to finish nesting (e.g. by a temporary path closure which does not cause any practical problems), the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 requires that such alternatives be considered.

The woodland was assessed for dangerous trees at the beginning of February this year. A list of trees that required attention was drawn up and contractors were asked to submit quotations to complete the necessary work. It was our intention to complete this work before the end of that month or at least as early as possible. We accepted a quotation from a contractor but could not proceed with the safety work due to lack of funding. Since then, volunteers with the necessary experience have stepped forward to help us begin this work. Only trees that pose a significant threat to the public are being worked on and all identified trees and those in the felling line are carefully checked for bird’s nests as well as the target felling area on the ground. With the increased footfall within the woodland, as many people use it as the destination of their permitted recreation, it has made this safety work all the more urgent and it would not be appropriate to close all the affected paths within the woodland until the end of the nesting season.

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Record of Gifford Woods Biodiversity

A summary of the total formally recorded biodiversity within the woodland has now been brought together.  This is a fantastic record of all biodiversity within our woodland, and will serve as a record for now and into the future.

It is rather lengthy, but anyone wishing to investigate all the detail, click here to view an online spreadsheet with all the data

Fossil Find in Gifford Woods

On a recent volunteering day in Gifford Woods an unusual find was made by Gordon Steele, and thanks to Ian Watson you can now read all about it below...

Rugose Coral Fossil Find
Speedy Burn
(Found by Gordon Steele, 22nd February 2020)

The finding of a fossil, tropical water, Rugose Coral specimen in the Speedy Burn in the Gifford Community Wood not only sounds unusual but actually is. It raises many questions about how it might have come to be there? A very good question was raised by the finder: “How does a fossil of a tropical sea species of coral end up in Gifford?” Here is what I, a retired local geologist, believe to be a possible explanation.

Beneath the soils & underlying glacial clays of the Community Wood lies a substrate of Early Carboniferous rocks of the lower Tournaisian series of the Dinantian Epoch (approximately 350 million years old). Corals are generally found in limestones, which are shallow marine rocks, whereas the rocks in the Gifford area are predominantly braid plain, fluviatile sandstones & shales with only infrequent marine incursions. However, slightly younger (geologically speaking), approximately 340 million year old, Visean, fossiliferous, limestone sequences do occur not too far away in various parts of East Lothian (eg at Barns Ness, Skateraw & Longniddry shoreline outcrops). The most likely origin of this find probably invokes Ice Age transportation by glaciers moving west to east across the region, perhaps eroding the coral from the limestones which form the substrate about 3km west of the wood at East Saltoun (see the excerpt from the Haddington  area Geology map, Sheet 33W).

The last few kilometres of the coral’s journey, via one or other of the 15 glaciations of the last 2 million years, is geologically very recent. In order to move from its likely tropical sea origin, we need the much longer time span of continental drift. What is now Scotland was at or perhaps just south of the equator when the limestones were first forming in coral reef, tropical lagoons. Over the ensuing 340 million years, the plate has gradually drifted north over 50 degrees of latitude to Scotland’s now far from tropical climate as part of NW Europe.

Although from an amateur visual inspection of this fossil (see the attached photos), we cannot be certain of its name & type, a good candidate would seem to be Caninomorph (ie similar to a dog-tooth), as per the figure taken from a recent Belgian paper on Rugose Corals of the Carboniferous. Many of the Early Carboniferous subdivisions in Europe are named after these type localities in Belgium: eg, Dinant, Tournai & Visé, etc, which lead to the geological names such as Dinantian with its subdivisions of Tournaisian & Visean.

After travelling several thousand miles over nearly 350 million years, being variably buried and exhumed & latterly encased in ice, this specimen deserves more than a casual glance.

Ian R Watson MSc DIC FRGS

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Management Meeting Minutes - 28th January 2020

The latest Management Meeting for Gifford Woods took place last week, attended by various members of the Management team and local community.

You can view the minutes by clicking here.

Many thanks.