Gathered acorns
Some of the acorns gathered by Susan and Nick for the tree nursery. © Susan Pease

Most of us have heard the phrase ‘from tiny acorns mighty oaks will grow’, but how many of us have thought what that means when taken literally?

For Nick Clooney, however, the proverb basically describes his job! Nick manages Coigach & Assynt Living Landscape’s Little Assynt Tree Nursery, and just this week for example, Nick delivered 2,500 oak and hazel trees to the Reay Forest estate, to replace many thousands of conifers that have been clear felled.

Clear felled area of Reay Forest
This area of Reay Forest, which used to be conifers, will be replaced by the young oaks and hazels © Nick Clooney

The trees were all grown from seed collected in Coigach and Assynt, carefully nurtured at the Nursery by Nick and tree nursery assistant Susan Pease, but still just tiny ‘whips’ that would fit quite comfortably in the back of a van.

Tree whips
It’s hard to imagine these tiny whips will one day make a forest © Nick Clooney

But 50 years from now these same trees will have grown to create a new forest, this time of native species. This new woodland will provide a home for hundreds of other species of plants, animals and fungi that have evolved together over many thousands of years to rely on these tree species. Oak trees, for example, can support over 250 species of invertebrates – many more than the average non-native conifer. So those little acorns will not only grow into mighty oaks, but will bring the whole forest back to life.

Loch a Mhuillinn oak wood – an example of how Reay Forest might look in the future. © Nick Clooney

The 2,500 trees destined for Reay Forest Estate are just a fraction of the 50,000 plus native trees grown at the Nursery each year. Not just oak and hazel, but also birch, rowan, scots pine, juniper, dwarf birch, holly and wych elm, all grown from locally collected seeds. Just imagine the size of the forest, and the positive impact that it will have, when all these trees are all full grown – for wildlife, people and the environment.

Nick and Susan’s little acorns will indeed leave a mighty legacy. If you’d like to find out more about the work of the Nursery, and how you could get involved in the future, you can read more here.


  • ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’, by Jean Giono, is a wonderful novella about one man’s lifetime’s work creating a forest of oak trees.

Sue Walker

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