John Muir Awards with GRTW Crieff

The Green Routes to Wellbeing in Crieff have done a fantastic job in achieving their John Muir Discovery Awards! 7 people within the group have earned the award through their voluntary activities in MacRosty Park and Lady Mary’s Walk with Calum, the Greenspace Ranger for Strathearn.


After discovering the different species that live in the area we have built bird and bat boxes to go up throughout the park. In addition to this we have planted and maintained several flowerbeds, which are regularly visited by bumblebees and butterflies! We also found a red squirrel using an old bird nest box, so it’s anyone’s guess what will make use of our new houses!

We have really enjoyed the nature-focussed activities involved in achieving the award. In the past we have done a lot of vegetation and path management, or maintaining/weeding/planting flower beds, with little context outside of keeping the park looking good. So, by tying in previous tasks with more of a focus on biodiversity and nature we’ve had a greater sense of achievement.


With a couple keen birders, an ex-forester and a former landscaper in the group, there has been considerable knowledge shared between us, and I think we all have a better understanding of our surrounding environment as a result. Going forward we will be doing some more nature-focussed tasks to tie in with our routine maintenance. As a group we have plans to create another wildflower area in the park and to promote the red squirrels in the area by building a squirrel feeder.

Crieff High School Skills Group End of Year!


It has come to the end of the year for the Crieff High School Skills Group.

They have learned a huge amount over the year and have came on hugely in their development.

From Himalayan Balsam and Bracken Bashing, to path maintenance and drainage(seen above) they have covered a huge amount of activities in their time.

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Here is how they feel the year has went:

“Before starting to go out with Alan, the Greenspace Ranger, we didn’t really take part in any physical activity in school.

In the beginning it was pretty hard work, especially learning about all the different tools but it has got easier and more enjoyable as the term went on.”

Jay said, “I really enjoy the freedom of going out. My favourite activity is bracken bashing because you get to use a slasher and you can really see the difference.”

James said,” I don’t enjoy school so going out is a great escape. My favourite thing to do is digging the ditches for the drainage because it’s fun and it’s great to see the water flowing once it’s clear.”

“We have learnt lots of skills throughout the time, from cleaning the tools correctly to make sure they fit to use, to recognising non-native species and weeds.

It is great to visit different places around Crieff too, we go to Lady Mary’s Walk, MacRosty Park and up the Knock so get to see different landscapes.”

The contribution of the group to their community has been invaluable and we have been really impressed with their progression over the year. We hope to maintain the group going in to the next school year and support more young people to learn new skills and developing the young workforce of the future.



Crieff High John Muir Award


Knock of Crieff

Crieff High were recently out with Alan and Jeannie  participating in Conservation activities to achieve their John Muir Discovery award. Here is them describing their award.

12 young people from S4 Crieff High School took part in the John Muir Award and we did a variety of activates like team building, rock climbing and conservation work.

They provided the following statement to Alan for use on this Blog.

“On the first day we went up the Knock to complete team building exercises like walking with ski’s and bat and moth.

We also went orienteering up and around the knock. We then went to the bush craft area and had a campfire in the fire pit, we ate marshmallows and sausages.

On the Wednesday we went climbing and abseiling at Bennybeg which was very fun but it started to rain halfway through the day which made it very hard to abseil on the slippery rocks.

Thursday we went to Loch Monzievaird. We walked all the way around the Loch looking at different types of stuff like different types of trees and trees that beavers chewed on. We also looked at nature’s pallet.

On Friday we did Conservation work on the Knock and we took out beach trees from the ground because it is not a native tree and when it grows it will block out the sun and the native plants will not grow, we did the conservation in different places up the Knock.”

Behind the scenes

For a number of years there has been a partnership between Abernethy Trust – Ardeonaig Centre and Perth and Kinross Council. Participants from Ardeonaig help the Community Greenspace Ranger to complete Forest Plan works in the Birks of Aberfeldy and with Path Groups.

For the second year running the “Gappies” who work hard behind the scenes at Ardeonaig are getting the opportunity in completing their John Muir Awards.  This has also therefore involved a couple of trips to the Birks of Aberfeldy. In their own words…..

Team involvement in the John Muir Award at Abernethy Ardeonaig

The first part of the John Muir Award is to discover a wild place. Loch Tay is a large beautiful loch surrounded by an inspiring mountainous landscape with stunning trees scattered around it. In exploring it, we have canoed and kayaked on it, giving us hours of fun and entertainment. It is easy to see just how appealing the area is at first glance, as the shimmering water is virtually begging for attention. Here at Ardeonaig we have the privilege of having such a wonderful natural spectacle right outside our front door!

We went to the Birks of Aberfeldy to help Jeannie Grant for our conservation day. It is a forested area that also has beautiful waterfalls and path to walk on. Scotland’s national poet Robbie Burns wrote his poem The Birks of Aberfeldy about the birch trees here.

When people think of conservation, they tend to think about making or introducing something to the area to help it along, but we conserved the area by doing the opposite. We got rid of beech trees because they prevent other trees from growing properly. Beech trees are a massive problem at the Birks because they tend to dominate other species of plant and they multiply quicker than other trees. Jeannie gave us the tools to get rid of the beech trees that cover the paths and disrupt other trees from growing. We used tree poppers to get the trees out of the ground and used many types of saws including a bow saw and pole saw to cut down branches that are in the way of the path. The best tool to use was the tree popper because it took out the roots from under the ground so prevented more trees from growing. This could be quite hard work and a lot of the time you also needed to use a spade to help get the tree out of the ground.

One of the trees we were protecting was an oak tree sapling that had been damaged by a deer. We used some of the branches that we sawed off the beech trees to put around the little oak tree. We also helped protect a monkey puzzle tree by cutting back the trees around it to let more light in.

After quite a while of pulling out trees and cutting down branches we had cleared quite a bit, so we moved on to something different. We split into two groups and we both had to make a natural shelter out of whatever we could find. Then we learnt how to make fires in Kelly Kettles when out in the wild.

When we got back to Abernethy Ardeonaig, we took some of the baby beech trees and planted them in our grounds here. They are in the raised beds by the tool-shed, and in the future they will be planted in the hedge near where the archery range is. This is to help stop children from getting too near the maintenance zone when they are playing in the grounds.

It was a really good day and it was a great feeling of taking responsibility for our surroundings and knowing that other people and nature will benefit from our hard work.

Finally, to complete our Discovery Level Award, we prepared a presentation on what we had done, with anecdotes and photos, and presented it to the rest of the Abernethy Ardeonaig Team.

Esteban, Jakob, Katrin, Liane, Marvin, Murray & Will

Abernethy Ardeonaig Gappies 2017-18



ard3    ard4            ard1   ard2


Junior Rangers brave the cold;

Perth and Kinross Community Greenspace Rangers enjoy working with Pitlochry High Pupils in order for them to get their Junior Ranger and John Muir Award (Conserve level) awards. The last task held in November was a challenge for everyone… in their own words…

25/11/17- Black Spout Wood- Replanting Seedlings

The S3 Junior Ranger group travelled on the minibus to Pitlochry’s Black Spout Woods on a winter day that crept in through our multiple layers of clothes with gelid fingers, so it was best to get working as quickly as possible. Our task was explained to us by Jeannie, to replant seedlings or saplings away from the adjacent archaeological site, an Iron Age building explored in 2005-2009 (the building was discovered to be approximately from 250 BC- 50 AD), to conserve the site by ensuring the site is devoid of trees in case the trees take over the ancient site.

We spilt into groups of roughly two or three to complete our task. Firstly, we would select a seedling to move, this was facilitated with small pieces of red and white plastic tape tied around some saplings and dig a square with a spade around it. This was done so that the roots of the tree remained intact. This was imperative as it ensured the tree would have the best chance with some pre-establishment when it was relocated.

We then found a small glade in the forest to plant the tree, it is best to give the tree as much sunlight space as possible. A square was then dug out, and the turf put to one side to be utilised later, which was deep enough to accommodate the tree’s roots and with a periphery of space around. The tree would be positioned and the turf would be packed in around it, upside down in order so that the tree would have a good opportunity to grow and we pushed the soil down by stamping thoroughly.

After the tree was planted we needed to fortify it against overgrazing from animals such as deer grazing on it and destroying it. We would place 2 or 4 poles (depending on the size of the seedling) as a base to wrap the chicken wire around.  In order to do this we would firstly construct a hole to hold the pole utilising a pinch-bar, we would lift the pinch-bar up and let it drop and the weight of the pinch-bar would create a hole. The hole would be made more capacious (not too large although in order to give the pole stability) by moving the pinch-bar in a circular motion in this hole. The wooden pole (chosen as it is rather cheap and conforms to the surrounding environment) would then be inserted and secured with a metal open-bottomed cylinder with handles on each side (this was very effective but cumbersome due to weight so some of us required assistance) and this had the same effect of the pinch-bar, we would lift it up and use the weight of its fall to secure the pole. We would continue doing this until the pole was sufficiently in.

After the poles were fixed in we would then wrap and secure the chicken wire around the tree. We approximated the length the chicken wire and cut them utilising a multi-functional device with a wire-cutter included. To secure the chicken wire on the poles we could either utilise a stapler or nail a large nail a third of the way in and then we would deliberately bend it over to secure it.

We then consumed our lunch in the warmth of the mini-bus and after this we finished fixing the protection.

Our next job was to plant holly bushes and hazel saplings which then could be used in later years in producing berries and nuts to help the environment as it helps to feed local wildlife such as red squirrels helping them to survive the year. These were donated by SEPA. Our method of doing this was utilising a spade to dig a small hole in the soil and securing the plant in. In order to protect the plant we would stick a small wooden pole in the soil diagonally towards the plant and use it to support a hollow plastic cylinder that was around the plant to protect it from overgrazing. We attempted to spread these plants out as much as possible and avoid grouping the same plants together so we would not be planting plantations that only support certain species.

Overall, the entire group that came really enjoyed it and are grateful to Jeannie for taking the time to do this with us.

John Muir Awards and Training

holly in the hollow

The PKC Ranger Service is able to support groups, or individuals, that wish to use Perth and Kinross Council owned greenspace sites to achieve a John Muir Award.

The John Muir Award is an environmental award scheme that encourages people to discover and explore an area of greenspace, and then take practical action to conserve this area. The final part of the award is to share your experiences with other people. The award is the educational programme of the John Muir Trust. They are the UK’s leading wild land conservation charity, inspired by the legacy of John Muir.



With a number of new rangers joining the greenspace team, it was recommended to do the formal training lead by a John Muir Trust member of staff.  We were fortunate to use Breadalbane Community Campus and opened the days training to PKC teaching staff and other ranger services in the area.

During the course the group learned about the award structure is being versatile making it suitable for a wide audience. It can be carried out in an array of greenspace from gardens to mountains. There are three different levels for the award, discovery, explorer and conserver levels.

  • The discovery award is the introductory level which requires the participant to carry out a minimum of 4 days working on a project.
  • The intermediate level is the explorer award which requires participants to carry out a minimum of 8 days.
  • The advanced level is the conserver award where a minimum of 20 days over a period of 6 months is required.

The day crammed in a lot of information including writing up a proposal form and trying out a number of resources the John Muir Trust had to offer.

The award can be done on its own or to complement other awards such as Duke of Edinburgh or the Junior Ranger scheme and the Rangers are keen to do this.

If you would like to discuss a John Muir Award project, PKC Ranger Service can be contacted here

loitering in the woods  subtle sign of natureoutside warm-up

Our JMA Poem – Various Participants

Standing in the cold,

Deep roots take a hold,

Cracked, mossy bark,

Lichens have left their mark,

What are you?



Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Gold Residential – Environment & Conservation Camp

The Community Greenspace Rangers often work in partnership with other organisations for participants to achieve Duke of Edinburgh awards.  For the past five years there has been a partnership between Abernethy Trust, Ardeonaig.  Whilst at the centre and in the Highland Perthshire Countryside they not only work towards completing their awards but also work towards their John Muir Awards. In turn they support local Path groups, Bloom groups and help to complete the councils forest plans.

To get a flavour of their experience in their own words…..

“During our DofE Gold Residential camp that took place over the course of five days, we helped Jeannie Grant, PKC Community Greenspace Ranger, with two days of conservation volunteering to help out the Rannoch Path Group.

On the first day in Kinloch Rannoch we helped to brighten up some of the areas in the village, planting daffodil bulbs on the grassy bank by the village hall and at the War Memorial, to flower next spring. We also helped to clear the public footpath on the site of the old public toilets by the bridge. This involved cutting off the dead branches from the oak tree, improving the fence by adding some new fence posts and clearing moss from the footpath and steps. We used specialist tools, including a flat mallet, pole saw, bow saw, loppers and various other tools.

On the second day, we took part in maintaining the footpath to MacGregor’s Cave. We had the chance to use tree poppers as well as other tools from the previous day. We saw some amazing views along the way and explored MacGregor’s Cave at the end.

As a reward for our voluntary conservation work, Jeannie very kindly brought Kelly Kettles for us to prepare hot chocolate and toasted marshmallows. Using natural resources such as lichen, twigs and dried grass, we learned how to make small, contained fires to fuel the kettles.

Throughout the whole experience, working with people we previously didn’t know, we were able to gain valuable skills which we will be able to use in the future. At the start of our residential we all aimed to put something back into the local community and all feel as if we have achieved this. The overall experience has been very rewarding because of the long-term difference we have helped to make in the local area.

We would like to thank Jeannie Grant and the leaders at the Abernethy Ardeonaig Centre for an incredible camp that we won’t forget and for an excellent opportunity.”

Abernethy Ardeonaig DofE Gold Residential Camp

Environment & Conservation Team October 2017

If you have a group that would benefit form partnership work to help participants to complete Duke of Edinburgh please do contact the Communities team by emailing or phoning 01738 475000 and asking to speak to Community Greenspace Communities Team.



John Muir Award at The Knock of Crieff

The Knock © Perthshire Picture AgencyI have recently had the opportunity to work with pupils from our local school who are working towards their John Muir Award 

The group have taken part in activities from kayaking, to rock climbing and they are now entering the conservation phase of their Award.

To aid this I took the group to the Knock in Crieff to carry out some bracken bashing and heathland management.   During the day the group learned that it was important to control the bracken on the Knock as it shrouds out new tree growth and also prevents ground flora.  On their second visit they learned about the heathland – a priority habitat for biodiversity as there is so little left in the United Kingdom.

Both days included ‘citizen science’ to measure the air quality of the site which was then fed in to a national recording scheme through the Open Air Laboratories (

If you have a group who are carrying out the John Muir Award and are looking for some support please contact your local Greenspace Ranger

Junior Rangers

Community Greenspace Rangers have been supporting the Junior Ranger scheme administered by Cairngorm National Park and delivered in a partnership between Highland Perthshire’s Ranger Services via Pitlochry High School.  As we approach the half way point of the second year that Community Greenspace has been involved in, I thought it would be good to see some of the last years project from their presentation at the end of the introduction week through to one of their final articles written. The photos show their final task with Community Greenspace supporting Rannoch in Bloom and Rannoch path Group.

It is also good to report that all participants completed their Junior Ranger Award and their John Muir Conserve Award.

Black Spout Wood

“We all love the Kelly kettle so much because we always have hot chocolate to bump up the calories after burning off so many. We especially loved it after we went to Black Spout Woods where we cut down dead trees and dominating tree species. This is to allow the hazel and oak trees to grow, as a result of other domineering trees its numbers are sparse.

We also tried out the emergency tent, which was fun although a little cramped. It is designed for use if you ever get lost to protect from the elements and hypothermia.

The highlight was definitely the hot chocolate although we had to wait a while because there was a dramatic moment when someone knocked it over.”  Elah Cohen



Well done Alistair! John Muir Award Success

Massive congratulations to our committed volunteer Alistair, who has achieved his conserver level John Muir Award.

The John Muir Award is an environmental award scheme run by the John Muir Trust. The conserver level award is the most advanced level and requires participants to carry out at least 20 hours on the project over a period of at least 6 months.

Alistair completed his project over a period of a year in MacRosty Park in Crieff. He learned about the history of the park, was involved in environmental surveys and played a vital role maintaining the park to a high standard.

Alistair is one of the few people who achieve this level of the award each year and also one of the few who has completed all 3 levels of the John Muir Award.

The award was presented to him by Susan Whyte PKC Greenspace Ranger for MacRosty Park.