A group of Network Rail staff are branching out to help the environment by using their volunteer leave to plant trees.

Working with the Borders Forest Trust over two days, the team planted 1,200 dwarf silver birch trees and removed more than 1,000 tree guards and stakes from trees which have reached 5 years of age.

The work took place on the bare hillside at more than 500m elevation in the ‘upper glen’ at Corehead Farm, near Moffat as part of efforts to re-establish woodlands in the Southern Uplands of Dumfries & Galloway, part of the Wild Heart of southern Scotland.

Corehead Farm was once part of the Ettrick Forest, most of which has been lost. Borders Forest Trust are working to restore part of this forest and over three years, contractors and volunteers including local schoolchildren have planted 195 hectares of new native woodland – more than 230,000 trees in all.

Network Rail considers wildlife and the environment ahead of major projects so  we can approach the work in a way that minimises any environmental  impact, protects wildlife and helps avoid risk and delay for the project overall.

Stuart Ferguson, a project engineer with Network Rail and a volunteer with the Borders Forest Trust said;  “It is often the case that we have to remove trees from our railway embankments to maintain a safe and efficient railway. Using volunteer leave to support a  tree planting initiative seemed like a positive way to balance this out and give something back.

“Many of the volunteers who took part are normally office based so it was a great opportunity to get outside, enjoy some physical activity and work with colleagues to make a contribution to the fantastic work of the Borders Forest Trust.”

Adrian Kershaw  of the Borders Forest Trust said, “It was great to welcome Network Rail’s group of volunteers and we are grateful for the contribution they made over both days.

“Volunteers  form a vital part of our team helping us to achieve our vision of large-scale habitat restoration in Southern Scotland.  Conservation volunteering is a great way to learn new skills, get exercise in the great outdoors and meet new people as well as a practical and tangible way to help address wider concerns about our environment.

Anyone interested in volunteering with the Trust can find out more by contacting them at volunteer@bordersforesttrust.org