Forestry Overview

180325 Mains Hill and Bowland woodlands

Well, it’s not really 'forestry' but we have some blocks of forestry which are grown ‘commercially’ although they are generally less than 1 hectare in area so perhaps they join the rest of our silvicultural activities in the “woodland” category.

What we hope to achieve is to grow quality timber which looks good in the landscape, sequesters carbon and contributes to the environment. Whether we grow fine straight oaks, commercial conifers, native woodlands or parkland trees the same amount of thought and forward thinking go into the planning and the same amount of arboriculture takes place as they grow.

Having recently planted 60 acres (24 hectares) of native species up a hidden valley behind William Law to commemorate HM Queen Elizabeth II’s 60 years on the throne of Great Britain, we are feeling quite pleased with our green credentials and very pleased with the outcome. The Halkburn Diamond Jubilee Wood is thriving and will soon start to look and feel like real native woodland full of life and our glorious Scottish wildlife.

On the south side of the same hill, and almost contiguous with the Halkburn Wood, we have some of the remnants of the ancient Ettrick Forest with some wonderful old trees dating back 500 years and more, some showing signs of pollarding to allow cattle to graze beneath them. We recently hosted a visit from the Royal Scottish Forestry Society who enjoyed a stop and discussion among these historical echoes. In 2022 we dedicated this William Law Wood to Her Majesty as a part of her "Green Canopy" project so it now comes with a nickname 'The Queen's Wood'.

2021's visitation by Storm Arwen hit us badly, devastating many north-facing edges and demolishing woodlands just coming up to harvesting stage. We have had to amend our plans and, after consultation with Scottish Forestry and the local community, our new Long Term Forest Plan is ready to be implemented which will mean a lot of tidying up of blown timber, some felling and replanting, some heavy thinning of mature trees to allow the slower growers to have space and, of course, more planting to help advance our carbon sequestration, give shelter to farm stock and improve the variety of habitats for the fauna and flora we share the land with.

Phase 1 is now complete - we harvested some 5000 tonnes of (mainly) softwood timber of varying species and we have taken the opportunity to re-imagine some of the woods. We have hugely increased the hardwood element and I hope this will lead to an even more diverse range of habitats and therefore biodiversity in all its glory. Some of these new oaks especially are destined for 200 year or longer lifespans so we'll have to work hard to keep them healthy and well.

That is one of the joys of planting trees: one gets to create ever-changing landscapes which will outlast most of us unless we're very lucky indeed!

A new project is keeping me entertained; having felled trees around Torwoodlee Tower, I am planting their replacements as an orchard of mainly old Scottish varieties of apple, pear, damson and so on to create a whole new focus for pollinators as well as produce to raise funds for the ongoing conservation of the Tower itself.