Tree-felling ahead of schedule

The Yarrow road from Selkirk to Moffat will reopen early this weekend because forestry work is finishing ahead of schedule, writes Sandy Neil.

Last week, local businesses and householders in the Yarrow Valley expressed their anger at being given only seven days’ warning that the A708 would be closed for tree felling every weekend in September – one of the busiest months for tourism in the year.

Now the forestry manager in charge of the operation, Gavin Mann, has reassured concerned valley residents that he expects the timber harvesting at Shortwoodend Wood to finish early, opening the road partially this weekend and completely next weekend.

Ronnie Bell, principal technician for the roads department at Dumfries and Galloway Council, revealed in an update: “I have just had confirmation from Gavin Mann that they have made good progress at Shortwoodend, and that there will be no further requirements for full road closures on the A708.

“Gavin advises that there are between 10-20 loads to lift this coming weekend, each of which is likely to take some 20 minutes.

“In practice, the road will be required to close temporarily for approximately 20 minutes at a time while loading operations are taking place.

“Inevitably, there will therefore be some delays to the general public, although this will clearly be less inconvenient than the full road closures of the last two weekends.

“There will be signing provided on A708 at Moffat, at the Gordon Arms Hotel, and at the Talla Road junction to warn drivers on A708 of possible delays.

“Assuming everything now goes according to plan, Gavin advises that works at Shortwoodend should be finished this coming weekend.”

Mr Mann explained the reasons behind the weekend road closures in an earlier email to locals: “The woodland runs along the steep bank between the road and river.

“A significant proportion of the trees are now approaching over-maturity. Growing on a steep, free-draining slope has allowed them to reach considerable height. Rooting conditions are poor due to the gradient and a number of trees have already blown over.

“The risk of further windblow and the potential to impact on both the A708 and Moffat Water is increasing.

“Falling trees are an obvious hazard to road users and displaced root plates may lead to destabilisation of the bank which could result in landslip into the river and possible undermining and collapse of the road verge.

“Removal of the trees needs to be undertaken and the current harvesting at Sailfoot Forest offers the ideal opportunity when considering all the constraints associated with this site.

“Road closures are required for two reasons: safe felling of roadside trees (and those which have the potential to reach the road if control is lost) and removal of timber from the woodland at the southern end.

“The works have been planned for September to avoid the peak tourist season (school summer holidays) but still overlap with the end of harvesting in Sailfoot Forest to allow contractor resource to move between sites. Any further delay will also mean shorter working days due to reducing daylight times.

“The woodland will be replanted with native broadleaves only. This will help improve local biodiversity while avoiding the need for harvesting of trees again in the future.”