Red hazel tree planted to help red squirrels

Alexa Seagrave and Ernie Gordon plant a red hazel tree in the grounds of Paxton House, a favourite food of the endangered red squirrel
Alexa Seagrave and Ernie Gordon plant a red hazel tree in the grounds of Paxton House, a favourite food of the endangered red squirrel

A four year old red hazel tree grown from a single nut has been planted in the grounds of Paxton House “to commemorate the demise of our indigenous, adorable red squirrel”.

Ernie Gordon, from Alnwick, has grown 600 red hazel trees since coming across a red hazel while walking in the Cheviots in 2004 when he collected some nuts and grew them on.

“Hazel is the red squirrels’ favourite food and I’m trying to perpetuate the fruit of the red hazel for the squirrels,” said Ernie.

Paxton was home to a strong colony of red squirrels before the grey squirrels moved in and beside the red hazel planted in the grounds of Paxton House this week is a plaque, placed by Ernie, which reads: “Grown from a single nut to commemorate the demise of our indigenous, adorable red squirrels.”

Ernie was helped by a six foot red squirrel - Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Alexa Seagrave in a squirrel costume, complete with zip on tail - the pair of them keen to raise awareness of the red squirrels’ fight for survival and to let people know what they can do to help.

“Paxton House lies in the PARC (priority area for red squirrel conservation) so we are trying to recruit volunteers in the area to protect red squirrels by controlling grey squirrels which eat all the food and carry disease which kills reds,” said Alexa.

“If you can keep grey squirrel numbers down the reds can recolonise.

“There was a huge population expansion of greys last summer because of the good food supply so it as important as ever to protect the red squirrels.”

The Scottish Wildlife Trust try and control greys with live capture trappings, helped by volunteers and land owners, who Alexa says, are doing a good job in keeping numbers in check. What the trust are encouraging members of the public to do is keep the trust informed of squirrel sightings - whether red or grey - so they can monitor the situation, and for those who are particularly keen on supporting red squirrels the trust is trying to set up groups across the south of Scotland.

The trusts Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project needs your help to increase red squirrel numbers - you can make a donation, join the Scottish Wildlife Trust or for more information about the project ring 0131 312 4733, or visit www.scottishsquirrels.org.uk