In the heart of the Forest of Ae in Dumfriesshire lies a well-kept secret; an outdoor collection of forestry ploughs. These ploughs represent the development of tree planting technology.
In Britain, the use of ploughs in farming dates back to prehistoric times. In forestry, it is a far more recent development.
Using ploughs in forests
During the 18th and 19th centuries, afforestation (essentially, planting trees) became more common.
At first, people used specially-designed spades and hard physical work to dig holes and plant trees. During the 19th century, however, estate owners began to experiment in using farm ploughs in forestry. This cut down the work, reduced labour costs and improved planting conditions.
In 1919, after World War I, the Forestry Commission was set up to re-establish and expand forests in Britain. This led to the invention of specialised forestry plough, and the Commission was integral to developing new and improved ploughs for the huge task of planting Scotland's new forests.
The development of the RLR plough
In the early 1940s the Forestry Commission used an adapted farming plough produced by Andrew Begg of Tarbolton in Ayrshire. However, it did not plough deep enough to discourage weeds from growing. The additional costs of employing people to weed the area by hand, prior to planting, made the plough uneconomical.
In response, the Forestry Commission designed its own forestry plough called the RLR, named after their Chairman, Roy Lister Robinson. This plough continued to be used in Scotland until 1962.
Visiting the Ae plough collection
The exact location of Ae is grid reference NX 985 923.
The best place to start your visit is the Forest of Ae car park. The site is accessible on foot, a short walk from the car park on the Riverside Walk trail.
All sites managed by Forestry Commission Scotland are open for you to explore. However, not all sites have paths or signage and some are a considerable distance from car parking. We recommend that visitors consult a detailed map and wear appropriate clothing.
Please follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and remember that historic sites should be treated with care and respect.