Carrifran valley (image by David Geddes)

The Rotten Bottom Bow

Dan Jones with Carrifran bowThe Wildwood project was set up to demonstrate that in a world awash with problems, we need not sit back and wring our hands. A visionary local initiative in ecological restoration could provide both a symbol of the power of individuals to reverse environmental degradation and an inspiration for others to make even bolder efforts.

Carrifran Wildwood is not just another native woodland planting scheme. It occupies a well thought out place at one end of a spectrum of ecological restoration projects. The vision has always been that the valley should develop to resemble, so far as is possible, virgin woods.

A major archaeological discovery of a yew bow on the plateau at the head of the Carrifran Valley has helped realize this aim. It dates from 6000 years ago, placing it in the very early Neolithic, before agriculture had started to make an impact on the vegetation. Core sampling of the peat on the plateau where it was found, organized by the Museum of Scotland, yielded a uniquely detailed pollen record. Each species of tree or shrub planted in the valley has been selected on the basis of this pollen record or other evidence that it would have formed part of the original wildwood.

6,000 years ago,
in the peat bogs of Rotten Bottom…

…a yew hunting bow was abandoned, for reasons we shall never know. There it remained, preserved in the peat, until it was found by a hill walker in 1990. The bow is the oldest ever discovered in Britain and is now on display in the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Carrifran Bowman
Nothing is known of its owner. However, it is certain that Carrifran was then clothed in a rich array of trees and shrubs and was home to a wide variety of wildlife.

Along the valley floor, otters patrolled Carrifran Burn, which meandered through dense woodland with alder, ash, cherry and elm. Songbirds, butterflies and deer foraged in clearings rich with wild flowers.

On the slopes, the hunter scrambled through hazel, holly, oak and thorn, while far ahead, birch and rowan clung to the crags. On the plateau above, the woods were replaced by scrub of willows and juniper, and finally by open heathland on the summits.


This is a view of the past… it is also our vision for the future