Woodland wizards

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TWO very different woods won accolades in a prestigious national competition earlier this summer.

A Westruther-based botanist claimed a top trophy for his new native wood in this year’s Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards (SFWA) while a UPM Tilhill plantation near Hawick scooped a cup for being the best example of large scale forestry in Scotland.

SFWA director Peter Wilson described the work of David Long and Siobhan McDermott at Northwoode Native Woodland at their home, Spottiswoode, as “an excellent example of an individual’s commitment to create a native woodland through the restructuring of an existing conifer plantation through a combination of planting, primarily oak, and natural regeneration, mostly birch and rowan.”

The new award is for native woodland projects up to 10 years old, established by planting or natural regeneration on previously bare land or on land that has previously had tree cover of exotic species.

Mr Long started work on about 40 acres of the 80-acre former conifer woodland which he bought in 2002 and which has a documented history of more than 210 years and may have ancient woodland origins.

Mr Long told TheSouthern: “I just like growing trees! The aim is to try to restore a bit of native woodland to the Lammermuirs where almost all has been lost. It’s becoming quite a nice place for walkers and riders and I have had a lot of volunteer input. It’s also good for wildlife and I have been keeping detailed records.”

He and his wife installed a biomass log boiler for central heating in their home in 2009 which is fed by surplus Sitka spruce timber from the wood.

He told the judges: “The main purpose of the woodland is local amenity and enhancement of biodiversity; this has been greatly enriched and monitored, with many new birds and plants recorded, and rare insects such as small skipper butterfly. An area of heather moor has been restored and has already attracted birds such as black grouse, and managed and mown rides are excellent for butterflies.”

Between 2005 and 2010, Lothian Conservation Volunteers made 17 visits, doing conservation work, including brash clearing and burning, tree planting and recently quarry clearance.

Sculptor Charles Poulsen is creating “living sculptures” from trees there.

SFWA judges said: “The owners’ vision for an upland oak and birch woodland (the woodland type suited to the ground conditions) is clearly being achieved through a combination of planting and encouraging natural regeneration. Care has been taken to retaining heathland areas as open ground and the woodland is already hosting a variety of wildlife.”

They also praised Mr Long’s getting conservation volunteers involved adding that he had been able and willing to undertake his own site surveys, management planning and a long-term monitoring programme to help with future management decisions and other projects of a similar nature.

Environment Minister, Stewart Stevenson presented the Woodland Trust Scotland Trophy to David Long and the John Kennedy Trophy for the best example of large scale forestry to Tilhill at a ceremony at the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh earlier this year.

UPM Tilhill won their award for Ramsaygrain East and Rashiegrain Forests near Hawick “for the quality of intensive operational management of mixed species crops, long term retentions and outstanding work in restructuring of commercial timber production forest areas,” said the judges.

Congratulating the winners, Mr Stevenson said: “Scotland boasts a woodland heritage that is the envy of many but what most visitors don’t realise is that those woodlands are often the result of decades of hard work, often by successive generations of visionary, committed landowners and practitioners.”

The awards, set up to celebrate the economic, environmental and social contribution woodlands make to Scots and which this year attracted 24 entries – are run by the independent charity, Scotland’s Finest Woods, in partnership with private companies, Forest Education Initiative, Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and Woodland Trust Scotland.