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15 Feb 2022

Storm Corrie at Inverewe

Written by Martin Hughes, Operations Manager at Inverewe
An aerial photograph of a woodland peninsula. It has digital pin points superimposed, all across the area, to show the extent of the storm damage at Inverewe.
An aerial photograph showing the extent of the storm damage at Inverewe
On the night of 30 January 2022, Storm Corrie carried 90mph winds from the North-West Atlantic, which hit the northern part of Inverewe Garden. By the morning of 1 February, just over 60 mature trees lay on the ground and a further 90 large shrubs and rhododendrons had been destroyed, flattened as these giant trees fell.

Of the trees that have come down, many are mature specimen trees, including pine, beech, eucalyptus and fir, with some dating back to Osgood Mackenzie’s original plantings. Among the 90 large shrubs and rhododendrons, Inverewe has also lost some of its National Champions. The loss of our largest Scots pine (at over 30m in height) and one of our specimen eucalyptus trees (at over 80 years old) has been particularly heart-breaking for the team at Inverewe and for those who know the garden well. For many of our wonderful volunteers and guests, these trees were like old friends.

An aerial photograph of a woodland, with two circular areas digitally highlighted. Inside these circles are large fallen trees on the ground.
Our best specimen of eucalyptus and three mature specimens of Scots pine have been lost. They had developed together to provide a picturesque backdrop to the small pond area.

The main area of damage has occurred through Camas Glas, by the Jetty Path and at the Devil’s Elbow/Highview point. Further high winds after the storm have hampered damage assessment and have resulted in secondary damage – many other trees have suffered canopy damage and large snapped branches are now hung up in these canopies. As we move into recovery mode, we fear that the number of trees, shrubs and rhododendrons lost will increase as we are able to go deeper into the affected areas.

An aerial photograph of a woodland peninsula, jutting out into a sea loch. A blue banana-shaped area has been drawn over the woodland to highlight the area worst affected by storm damage.
Camas Glas, the main area affected by the storm damage

I felt very sad as I walked around the devastation; even though I have only been in the role here for 15 months, the draw of Inverewe Garden is simply amazing. Fortunately, I was reminded by one of our valued volunteers that this is not the first, nor will it be the last, time that Inverewe has suffered from storm damage.

On 15 November 1920, Osgood Mackenzie wrote:

2,600 of our trees were torn up by their roots or their stems snapped right across, all of them 50 to 56 years old, and from 60 to 70 feet high, and all, I may say, planted with my own hands.

An aerial photograph of a woodland clearing, with two circular areas digitally highlighted. Inside these circles are large fallen trees on the ground. A path runs to the right of the picture.
The sycamore, beech, alder, birch and Scots pines in this picture have suffered from multiple windthrow, which refers to trees that have been blown over completely, tilting at the root base.

We now look to the recovery plan and the opportunity of renewal. Inverewe is blessed to have a wonderful team, and through their ideas we are looking to carefully address each affected area of the garden rather than rush to clear and ‘tidy’ them. The priority is first to make the garden safe, and then to catalogue for the archives what has been lost. Some of the fallen trees will be left in situ for nature to do what it does best. Other areas that will now be fully open to sunlight will be monitored for natural regrowth; any invasive species that appear will be quickly removed. We are keen to encourage new natural growth rather than buying in trees and planting for planting’s sake. From our damaged rhododendrons and shrubs, we will start the propagation process.

From our lost pines – Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) and Austrian pine (Pinus nigra) – every cone will be salvaged, with all seeds removed from the cones and propagated to grow new plants. Some seeds will be directly sown into suitable areas, with the aim of conserving our plant genetic diversity. This is crucial for the vitality of our shelterbelt and its adaption and resilience to climate change.

An aerial photograph of a woodland with a small pond in the foreground. A large circular area has been digitally highlighted. Inside this circle are two large fallen pine trees on the ground.
Two mature Scots pines lie on their sides, with their massive root plates exposed. These trees were over 80 years old and around 20m tall (around the height of four two-storey houses).

This slow-but-steady approach will mean that around 15% of the garden will remain closed this season. Interpretation boards will be placed at strategic points around the closed area to tell the story of Storm Corrie, share our plans and remind our visitors that at Inverewe we really are gardening ‘on the edge’.

It costs just over £1 million a year to operate and maintain Inverewe Garden. The impact of the pandemic has resulted in a 50% drop in income at Inverewe during 2020 and 2021. The cost of recovering from Storm Corrie is estimated to be £80,000, so please consider becoming a member of the National Trust for Scotland or donating to our Storm Damage appeal this will go a long way towards helping us care for this wonderful garden.

Storm damage

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