ONE of the UK's leading forestry firms has chosen a volunteer mountain rescue group as its charity of the year for 2024.

Scottish Woodlands will be holding fundraising events throughout the year for Scottish Mountain Rescue, which is close to the heart of many of its employees. 

This includes senior forest manager Arran Smith, who has been a member of Border Search and Rescue Unit for almost a decade.

Border Search and Rescue is one of 25 volunteer teams that make up Scottish Mountain Rescue across the length and breadth of the country, providing emergency response to incidents including injured hillwalkers, flooding and missing persons. All 850 team members are volunteers and they are ready to respond 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Although each team receives funding from the Scottish Government, this is usually only enough to cover approximately 50 per cent of a team’s operating costs – so donations are vital.

Arran, based in Scottish Woodlands’ Melrose office years, said: “Donations are vital to allow Scottish Mountain Rescue’s teams to provide the very best service to the public.

“Most Scottish Woodlands staff will spend time working in remote locations on a regular basis.

"Hopefully, none of them will require a call to the local team to help them - but if they do, any donation you make or fundraising you get involved with will go directly to providing the assistance they need.”

Arran has had personal experience of the need for organisations like Scottish Mountain Rescue. 

He said: “I succumbed to hypothermia and exhaustion at an ultra-marathon event a couple of years ago. Although somewhat embarrassing, this experience made me realise how reassuring it is to have such dedicated volunteers available to provide the treatment I needed at the time.”

Bill Glennie, chair of Scottish Mountain Rescue, said: “Scottish Mountain Rescue thanks Arran Smith for his service to Border Search and Rescue Unit and welcomes the decision of his colleagues at Scottish Woodlands to make us its selected charity for 2024. This support is very much appreciated and any donations will be put to good use.”

Ian Robinson, managing director of Scottish Woodlands, said: “I’m delighted we have chosen Scottish Mountain Rescue as our charity for 2024.

"We had a very successful 2023 raising money for Lyme Disease, which poses a real threat to our staff – and everyone else who works and plays in rural areas – as it is commonly caused by the bite of a tick. Scottish Mountain Rescue continues our efforts to support those charities who play a vital role in keeping people safe across rural Scotland.”

Elsewhere, Scottish Woodlands has announced the winner of its 2024 staff photography competition, which it says showcases the stunning landscapes and diverse flora and fauna found in the forests managed by the company.

The winning image, by Charlotte Cavey-Wilcox, regional manager for South East Scotland, features a female Black Darter dragonfly at Ericstane Forest, north of Moffat.

The photograph highlights hidden biodiversity in timber-producing forests, with the site recording various butterfly, moth, and dragonfly species. Scottish Woodlands plans to further enhance the habitat by installing hibernacula (underground chambers) to allow amphibians and reptiles to shelter from the cold, and cutting back Sitka spruce around the pond edges.

Forestry Journal: The winning image features a female Black Darter dragonfly at Ericstane ForesThe winning image features a female Black Darter dragonfly at Ericstane Fores (Image: Charlotte Cavey-Wilcox)

David Robertson, director of investment and business development at Scottish Woodlands, and one of the judges, said: “The winning images beautifully capture the essence of our work – managing diverse and thriving forests that provide valuable resources and habitats.

"We are proud of our staff's talent and dedication in showcasing the landscapes we nurture across the forests and woodlands we work on.”