Saving the Balfron Oak

First published: May 2013

Clachan Oak, the ancient sessile oak at the entrance to Balfron. Known locally as the Hanging Tree, it originally stood on the central green of the hamlet known as The Clachan, which later grew to become the village of Balfron. It was recorded in 1867 as being in a “flourishing condition”, and at that time was thought to be 330 years old and to have been struck by lightning 40 years before. Its short, squat trunk is now completely hollow, and held together by three iron hoops. But the hoops were not originally intended as an early form of tree surgery – they had a much more sinister purpose. Until the end of the 18th century it was common practice to chain petty criminals to the tree where they were subjected to merciless public ridicule. An iron collar was attached around the neck and connected by a length of chain to the iron hoop encircling the tree. This was known locally as “the jougs”. The practice apparently ended after one unfortunate woman was left forgotten, presumably while the husband visited the local pub, and died after falling and being strangled by the iron collar.” Source: Heritage Trees of Scotland, by Donald Rodger

 

The tree has shown a marked decline in vigour over the past few years and live shoot growth is now very sparse. The treatment carried out on Wednesday 24th May 2013 involved the injection of compressed air to a depth of 1m, which lifts the soil and opens it up to allow better penetration of oxygen and moisture into the rootzone. At the same time, a seaweed compound is injected through the probe, which spreads throughout the soil and this expands when it wets, helping to maintain the soil porosity. The video shows the soil lifting as each blast of air is released, and you can see the operator adding the seaweed from the orange bucket. This treatment should help to encourage new feeding roots to develop and will hopefully create a marked improvement in the overall health and vigour. As a further treatment, it is planned to remove the grass over a large part of the rootzone and replace this with a woodchip mulch. This has the effect of reducing moisture and nutrient competition from the grass, and also encourages the development of beneficial fungi which help the tree to absorb nutrients. Hopefully, the combination of treatments will allow the tree to survive for a good few years yet.

Doyles Cafe wins top award

February 2013
Jack and Joanna Doyle, of Doyles Cafe in Balfron, have every reason to celebrate. For the hard working couple – owners of this very popular Cafe, have just been voted the “Best Cafe/Coffee House” in Stirlingshire by readers of Parklife magazine.
Amid fierce competition, the Cafe won this prestigious award for its quality food and home made fare in a casual and relaxed atmosphere. Jack Doyle said “We are thrilled to win this award from Parklife and we thank the readers for voting for us in such numbers.  All our food is freshly made on the premises- from soups to cakes and to our speciality home made pizzas served on a Friday evening, making best use of fresh, seasonal ingredients. He added “We listen to our customers’, pay attention to detail and produce quality food for all, including vegetarian and gluten free options”.
Doyles Cafe has been in Balfron’s Buchanan Street for over seven years and offers a little piece of Glasgow’s west end – a casual, laid back Cafe with good quality home made food . So whether it’s a Saturday breakfast, a light lunch, a private function or just a cup of Italian coffee, you can expect the warmth and charm of Doyles in Balfron.
Photo – Joanna Doyle and Jack Doyle – first and second right hand side with staff.
Contact Jack Doyle on 01360 449444 or email: doylescafe@gmail.com
 

Jungle City 2011

The hornbill in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh

Balfron children created a ‘Greek Thomson’ hornbill for the Edinburgh 2011 Jungle City.

Children from local community art group Friends of Art in Balfron (FAB) picked up their paintbrushes for Jungle City 2011 – a charity art project that turned Edinburgh into an urban jungle during August and September.

Twenty children aged from 5 to 13 years from FAB painted a life-sized sculpture of a hornbill, an exotic bird, after being invited to get involved by Glasgow-based web hosting company Easyspace.

The Easyspace hornbill was one of 150 animal sculptures on display at the Royal Botanic Gardens and then on the streets of Edinburgh during August and September as part of a million-pound fund-raising event by the Elephant Family charity to help preserve the habitat of a host of endangered species. The children’s work sat alongside that of famous artists like Jack Vettriano and celebrities like former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell who had been recruited to decorated sculptures of hornbills, tigers, crocodiles and orang-utangs.

Interviewed at the time, Phil Worms, marketing director of iomart Group the parent company of Easyspace, said: “We’re absolutely delighted that the children of Balfron are designing and painting our hornbill for Jungle City. They’ve amazed us with their ideas and we can’t wait to see the end result on display in Edinburgh. We hope they inspire other community groups to get involved.”

“We’re so excited,” said Mavia Duncan, aged 7. “It’s a brilliant project and we hope it helps save the animals.”

The children of FAB are using the work of Alexander Greek Thomson as their inspiration. The Scottish architect was born in Balfron and the children have been learning about him in their weekend art classes.

FAB chair person Dawn Cullen, said: “This is a really wonderful art project for the children to be involved in. We can’t thank Easyspace and the Elephant Family charity enough for inviting us to take part. We hope our involvement encourages a lot of other community groups to take part.”

Easyspace is a web hosting, web design and domain name company based at the West of Scotland Science Park just outside Milngavie. It supports the Elephant Family charity – organisers of Jungle City 2011 – by donating money from the domain names it sells.

Painting the hornbill

The hornbill is now in the Primary School.