Sports Wood


A group of 20 people pose with spades and wheelbarrows after planting. Trees are knee height, planted in rough grass, and mulched.
Principal Professor Sally Mapstone (front) joined staff from Estates (Environment, Transition and Grounds) as well as students and staff from Saints Sport to help plant the Sports Wood.

Sports Wood is a native broadleaf woodland planted for biodiversity, named after the nearby Saints Sports centre. 179 volunteers planted 650 native broadleaf trees over three days in November 2021.

  • Location: Saints Sports, St Andrews
  • Area: c. 0.2ha
  • Trees: c. 650 mixed native broadleaf
  • Planting density: 2m centres
  • Planting dates: 8-10 November 2021
  • Maps: Google, ///messaging.dreamers.panting

Creation of Sports Wood was part of the Meadows in the Making programme funded by NatureScot Biodiversity Challenge Fund. It was delivered in partnership with the St Andrews Botanic Garden, Fife Council, and Fife Coast and Countryside Trust. Habitats like meadows and woodlands help create rich, attractive places for people and wildlife to thrive.


A mix of native broadleaf trees were planted, chosen to maximise the benefit to biodiversity, and following a climate-adaptive planting pallet.

  • English oak (Quercus robur): 16%
  • Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia): 16%
  • Alder (Alnus glutinosa): 16%
  • Grey willow (Salix cinerea subsp. oleifolia): 11%
  • Silver birch (Betula pendula): 11%
  • Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna): 11%
  • Hazel (Corylus avellana): 5%
  • Osier (Salix viminalis): 5%
  • Dog rose (Rosa canina): 5%
  • Downy birch (Betula pubescens): 5%
  • Crab apple (Malus sylvestrix): 5%


To plant the trees, planting locations were created by cutting sections of turf with a turf cutter. A rotavator was then used to loosen the soil. Whips were planted by hand and species were distributed in zones across the site. Water-loving trees like alder and osier willow were planted in wet areas, whereas trees like English oak and silver birch were planted in dry areas.

After planting the turf was replaced over the hole, around the young tree, grass side down. This was then covered by a layer of cardboard and mulched. The aim of these three measures was to minimise competition from grass/weeds, retain moisture, and minimise maintenance.

A group of 10 people listen to a briefing. The leader is kneeling on prepared ground. In an outstretched hand he is showing a tiny tree to the group. Spades and wheelbarrows stand ready nearby.
Conservation worker Stephen Paul explains how to plant trees to group of volunteers.


179 volunteers from the surrounding community including:

  • University students and staff, including staff from Saints Sports
  • Canongate and Lawhead Primary school groups
  • Wildlife Babies mother and toddler group
  • Members of the public




Text: Annie Herington.
Photos: University of St Andrews. Johanna Willi.

Lead photo full caption (left to right): Vinson Wong (Sports Scholar, Fencing), Emma Kallblad (Executive Officer, Office of the Principal), Ali MacLeod (Transition University of St Andrews, Estates), Alan Sinclair (Director of Rowing), Ian Gaunt (Deputy Director of Sport), Elliot Dronfield (Sports Scholar, Karate), Scott Laird (Apprentice, Grounds, Estates), Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sally Mapstone, Amelia Peters (Sports Scholar, Water Polo), Isaac Stables (1st XV Captain, Rugby Club), Rab Mitchell (Grounds Team, Estates), Stephen Paul (Practical Conservation Worker, Grounds Team, Estates), Scott Lawson (Director of Rugby), Patrick Paterson-Brown (Grounds Team, Estates), Johanna Willi (Ecological Projects Manager, Estates), Jess Smith (Athletic Union President), Al Clark (Sustainability Manager, Estates), Keith Thomason (Sustainability Manager, Estates) and David Toy (Programme Manager, St Andrews Forest)