DAME Judi Dench has dedicated an acre of birch trees in a picturesque Scottish wood to her friends as a Christmas gift.

The Oscar winning actress chose a grove in the Ledmore and Migdale Wood in Sutherland as a lasting gift from herself and her family “for the people we love”.

Dame Judi wrote cards to her friends informing them last Christmas, and a post was recently erected to mark the site.

The 1730 acre wood is owned by the Woodland Trust, which offers the dedication scheme at more than 50 locations around the UK.

Dame Judi, who is an ambassador for the conservation charity, said she could visit the “magical spot” in the future.

The Skyfall, Mrs Brown and Shakespeare in Love star said: “For many years it has been my habit to plant trees marking occasions in family life.

“When I saw the Woodland Trust’s dedication scheme it struck me as a marvellous way of gifting something rather beautiful and lasting to friends at Christmas.

“I looked at information and pictures of various beautiful woods before settling on Ledmore and Migdale.

“I have not visited personally. Perhaps I shall one day. As the trees grow in the years ahead it is certainly a nice thought that some of my friends might drop by. It does seem a magical spot.”

Ledmore and Migdale lies around the small village of Spinningdale, on the shore of the Dornoch Firth, and is the most northerly of over 1000 sites managed by Woodland Trust.

The wood offers an “enriching and magical” experience to visitors, including walks, a vast array of wildlife, tranquillity and a rich and diverse habitat to explore.

At nearly 700 hectares (1730 acres) it is one of the largest sites owned by the Woodland Trust and encompasses three Sites of Special Scientific Interest: Ledmore Oakwood (95 hectares/235 acres), Migdale Pinewood (144 hectares/356 acres) and Spinningdale Bog (29 hectares/71 acres).

Dame Judi’s inscribed post was due to be erected earlier this year but its installation was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. It reads: “These trees have been dedicated at Christmas 2019 for the people we love. Judi Dench and family.”

Ross Watson, Woodland Trust Scotland’s North Scotland Site Manager, said: “This is a fantastic accolade for Ledmore and Migdale. I am thrilled and I am sure many in the local community will be delighted too.

“The grove comprises an open bog woodland with birch fringe, and spectacular views over to Migdale Rock. It will be a fantastic haven for wildlife as the area continues to develop in the years ahead.”

In 1897 the industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie bought Skibo Estate which then included the woods of Ledmore and Migdale. The estate stayed in the family until the 1980s.

Woodland Trust acquired the bulk of the site in the 1990s. Earlier this year it added The Fairy Glen -- a favourite walk of the Carnegie family.

Last year 20 red squirrels were reintroduced to Ledmore and Migdale in a partnership between Woodland Trust and Trees for Life.

A spokesman for the conservation charity said: “Tree and woodland dedications last for generations and are memorable and that little bit different. Each tree or woodland grove is dedicated once only and is personal and unique to whoever you give it to.

“Every tree supports hundreds of species of plant, insects, birds and animals, so by dedicating a tree or woodland and supporting the work of the Woodland Trust you are directly giving nature a helping hand.

“Dedications are suitable for every occasion and the dedication pack we send out means there can always be something to open.”