There are around 11 distinct areas of woodland on the Estate extending to over 230 acres. Some are shown as forested in the Roy Military Survey of Scotland, 1747-1755 (one of the earliest national maps of Scotland) whilst a number are far younger having been planted in 1992/1993. With the majority of the woods comprising native species of trees and plants, our woods encompass four out of six of Scotland’s designated priority woodland habitats. These are Upland birchwoods, Upland mixed ashwoods, Upland oakwood and Wet woodland. Priority woodland habitats are those which are considered to be of principal importance for biodiversity conservation in Scotland.
A new ten year management strategy to 2026 has recently been agreed with the Forestry Commission Scotland. This strategy identifies and outlines the operations required to meet certain aims and objectives; notably to preserve and improve biodiversity within our woodlands whilst achieving the sustainable production of high quality timber and forest by-products.
Certain areas require direct management such as thinning, and selective felling, to improve the long term structure and biodiversity value by allowing a new cohort of trees to regenerate and develop to full maturity. Increased light levels also helps diversify the field layer. Other areas have been identified as benefiting from clear felling and re-planting with suitable native species. We estimate that we have planted over 30,000 trees in the last 40 years. There are a number of designated areas to which no intervention will be made and which will be left entirely to natural processes.
A key aim that is close to our heart is to remove all rhododendron from our woodlands within the next 10 years. Introduced to the Estate as an ornamental plant and as game cover prior to our ownership, by 1961 rhododendron had enveloped a vast area of the main wood. In places it is around 25ft high and entirely impenetrable. Since 1961 over 50 to 60 acres have been cleared leading to the significant natural regeneration of native species of trees such as silver birch, oak, ash and holly as well as allowing the establishment of various plants including bluebells, heather, and various grasses. It’s expensive, around £3000 per acre, and with 27 acres to go our plan is ambitious but hopefully we will get there.