Eadha Enterprises is a small environmental charity based in Renfrewshire. “Eadha” (pronounced “eh-yuh”) is the old Gaelic word for the aspen tree and the charity grows and plants aspen and other rare native trees to regenerate land and communities.
The charity is one of the lead bodies in aspen conservation and research in the UK working to promote its wider use in a range of forestry and other niche applications for which it is ideally suited (see below). To date most of its work has been focused in Scotland with the development of a national aspen clone bank for Scotland and the creation of a partnership with Forest Enterprise Galloway District. Here there is an aspiration to plant 3 million aspen trees over the next 20 years across Galloway, parts of Ayrshire and Arran, playing a key role in restocking areas where larch and ash have been lost to disease. Aspen will also be a key species in tree-line woodland restoration projects in the Galloway hills.
However, over the last couple of years, Eadha’s work has extended south of the border, with support from landowner and woodland enthusiast Mike Cavanagh to develop a Lakeland Aspen Project. Eadha has conducted a survey across the Lake District National Park to identify wild clones of aspen and has collected root cuttings from thirty priority clones for propagation in Eadha’s nursery. Aspen rarely sets seed so must be propagated vegetatively from cuttings. Aspens send out suckers which then grow into trees which are clones of one another. The clone bank is important in preserving and ensuring genetic diversity. The trees will be destined for a planting scheme on Mike’s land to showcase the collection. Eadha is currently engaging with the Forestry Commission seeking support to extend this work across the whole of the north of England and to develop a supply chain for aspen.
Aspen is extremely vulnerable to grazing and fire and is typically found clinging to ungrazed cliffs, rocky bluffs and streamsides. These aspen are thought to be the remnants of a far more extensive habitat. Indeed aspen is a keystone species in the forest so its absence is to the detriment of the wider ecosystem.
Eadha believes that aspen will become one of the key forestry species in the future, with benefits to soils, landscape and biodiversity as well as offering commercial opportunities. The charity are seeking land and forest owners and managers to work in partnership to develop trials with aspen including in mixed spruce and aspen silviculture replicating the Scandinavian model; aspen agroforestry for upland sheep pastures which can have major benefits to livestock and the environment; and in short rotation forestry systems for biomass production.
Until Eadha gets support and funding to develop a supply chain for the Lakeland clone collection, Eadha’s nursery can supply Galloway stock which would be appropriate for the North of England.