Hello and a really warm welcome to the December edition of the Voice for Arran. It is when I get to this editorial that it hits me how quickly the year has passed and we are already in the midst of a busy festive season! And it looks set to be an eventful month with the seasonal activities continuing on from November. There is a festive Farmers’ Market and Christmassy Corrie Film Club on Sunday 5th, a Whiting Bay Drama club mini-panto on 10th and 11th and a Solstice celebration at Heather Lodge on 18th . The first weekend of the month also sees the welcome return of the Corrie wood festival, Inspiration from Wood, which will be in the Corrie and Sannox Village Hall on Saturday and Sunday.

A wood and tree theme began to emerge as the issue was coming together, as the arrival of December also sees us halfway through National Tree Week. This annual tree celebration began at the end of November to mark the start of the winter tree planting season and across the UK people will be planting thousands of trees. Originally a year-long campaign called “Plant a Tree in ‘73”, the aim was to encourage people to plant as many trees as they could over the year. At the time in the early 1970s Dutch elm disease was posing a serious problem and led to the devastation of lots of elm trees around the UK. Now the focus is on tree planting as a way to fight climate change. In this issue the Arran Community Land Initiative provide an update of their recent activities which includes the planting of thousands of native deciduous trees over the past two years, such as Oak and Aspen, as well as Hazel, Blackthorn, Bird Cherry and Hawthorn. On Sunday 11th December they are holding a tree planting day and all are welcome to join.

In the context of National Tree Week, Forestry and Land write about The Tree Charter and the historical background of this Charter for Trees, Woods and People. We learn how the modern day version is intended to help communities with the care and conservation of our forests, and was developed to support organisations involved in tree planting and wildlife protection. The Tree Charter has a history spanning over 800 years however, and with The Carta Foresta established in 1217 it was the first charter to define and protect the nation’s woodlands. It was designed to restore land to the collective commons and in its efforts to protect public land, it is a foreshadow to the modern conservationist movements.

With the Winter Solstice approaching, Debbie and Steve Merritt continue their series on the Celtic Year ceremonies, and they also remind of us of the focal place of wood in the life of communities for centuries. During the Solstice celebration, which marks the turning of the darkest time of the year, one of the main features is the burning of a big piece of wood, or the Yule log. Debbie and Steve write, “According to tradition it must come from one’s own land or be a gift, and it must not be purchased. It is traditionally ignited with the remaining piece of last year’s Yule log. This way, the light is passed on from one year to another”. The central message of Solstice is renewal; it offers a bright sense of hope we can carry with us in the coming month and on into the New Year. From all of us at the Voice, we hope you keep safe and well and we wish you all a lovely Christmas time – Elsa, Heather, Gregor and Jim.