Borders timber would be worth exploiting

VIEW OF THE EILDON HILLS FROM SCOTT'S VIEW. IN THE SCOTTISH BORDERS.
VIEW OF THE EILDON HILLS FROM SCOTT'S VIEW. IN THE SCOTTISH BORDERS.
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WOODLAND is a good business add-on for farmers, according to a Borders forestry consultant.

Instead of garden furniture and other wood products being brought into the region from other parts of the UK, Borderers could be growing, making and selling their own, says Donald McPhillimy.

The Earlston-based expert is halfway through a contract with public bodies, funded by LEADER, to encourage more people to use and grow hardwoods and minor conifers – such as larch, fir and pine – in the region.

“We have been a bit disappointed that there haven’t been more farmers or people from the agricultural sector interested in diversifying or setting up a new business, which would use hardwood and minor conifers, “ said Mr McPhillimy.

Funding of up to 50 per cent is available from the Scottish Rural Development Programme and Mr McPhillimy would help farmers through the process.

Research by Buccleuch Woodlands shows there is plenty of hardwoods and minor conifers growing in the Borders.

Mr McPhillimy said: “There’s potential for a number of businesses which could make a number of products and we’ve got the raw material here. At the moment we bring wood products to the Borders from outside – they could be getting made locally.

“Farmers are quite well placed in that they sometimes have their own woods, they have a certain number of buildings and hard standing which could be used for different purposes and they have equipment – tractors, trailers – which could be adapted and used.

“They’ve got a good starting point but what they don’t have is the knowledge of forestry and different products that they could be making.”

This is where he comes in.

“There are grants too and there is still time. It would be a good opportunity if farmers are able to diversify from what they are doing or there are younger sons the farm won’t support,” said Mr McPhillimy.

So far three sawmills, a furniture maker and a forestry contractor have expressed interested in expanding to use more hardwoods and the minor conifers.

Mr McPhillimy said: “We are working closely with them to try and get them grants for up to 50 per cent of the costs of any new equipment.

“If anyone who is interested contacts me by email, I will get back to them quickly to discuss any ideas they may have.”

He says hardwoods and minor conifers can be used for a variety of niche markets – furniture, kitchen units, internal joinery, flooring, cladding, mantels and garden furniture and fencing.

Mr McPhillimy said: “Their timber characteristics often fit with higher value products, yet the resource in the Borders is often neglected.

“Local initiatives such as Woodschool at Ancrum have successfully built new businesses in furniture design and production by creating value from hardwoods that were previously left as waste.

“Developments in new timber-related products and technologies, for both hardwood and non-spruce softwood, together with proximity to markets in Edinburgh and northern England, are highlighting further opportunities for creating new value from local timber.”

And he added: “Harvesting timber and locking up the carbon it contains for many decades is a great way to combat climate change.”

For more information contact Mr McPhillimy at donald.mcphillimy4@virginmedia.com