Orkney's new centenary woodland marks WWI maritime disaster

Residents have helped to create a new woodland in Orkney's main town of Kirkwall, in memory of those lost 100 years ago in the sinking of the cruiser HMS Hampshire near the islands.

Image: Woodland Trust
Image: Woodland Trust

The Hampshire was carrying Field Marshall Kitchener from the British fleet's base at Scapa Flow on a diplomatic mission to Archangelsk in Russia when it struck a German mine during a storm on 5 June 1916. Kitchener was among around 650 lives lost when the ship went down.

The HMS Hampshire Centenary Wood is an initiative of the Woodland Trust, and is one of several it is organising to mark the centenary of the First World War. The mostly native wood includes downy birch and aspen grown from locally collected seed.

Jenny Taylor of Orkney Woodlands Project (OWP), which is funded by the Woodland Trust, explained: "We use plastic mulch mats here, because in Orkney you have to take all the stress away from the plant that you can, and mulch mats stop the grass from competing with the trees for nutrients, water and sunlight."

She added: "We use guards not so much to protect them from the weather as from the mowers when the surrounding area is cut."

Though often thought of as treeless, the islands have around 35 hectares of established native woodland, according to a 2013 Forestry Commission Scotland survey.

OWP's funding, from a variety of sources, initally ran for 15 years up to 2013, during which time a total of 127 hectares of new woodland was created or brought into management on the islands.

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