Forest Enterprise Scotland North Highlands team wins SFWA for innovation

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FES foresters mainly responsible for delivering the project, Stephen Fraser (left) and Sean Miller (centre) and the Scottish Woodland Contract Manager, Rhys Llewellyn (right).

Forest Enterprise Scotland’s team in North Highland has won a prestigious award for their innovative work to establish a new forest at Sibster.

The six year-old woodland has been awarded the Scottish Finest Woods Award for Innovation – the Dulverton Flagon - thanks to the design, development and silvicultural approach taken on the site.

Roughly half way between the towns of Thurso and Wick, the 213 ha Sibster Forest was designed in 2009, with contractors Scottish Woodlands starting work that same year.

The new site includes recreation facilities and, unusually for the Highlands, the woodland consists mostly of productive broadleaves – sycamore, ash beech and birch as well as a few small areas of pure conifer. It includes open habitats that are being managed to enhance local biodiversity and, where appropriate, a degree of agricultural productivity is also being maintained.

Tim Cockeril, FES District Manager for the area, said;

“After years of focusing exclusively on conifer crops we are now enjoying the challenge of adapting broadleaf silvicultural techniques to the demanding conditions in Caithness.

“From the start we were out to develop a multifunctional, sustainable, mixed woodland and, being so close to Wick and Thurso and next to the A9 and Georgemas Railway Station, it was also designed to be a recreational woodland, with a new car park, several picnic areas and 3.2 km of forest trails. It is already being well-used by local people.

“Initially our plans for Sibster were seen as fairly radical but working in collaboration the Scottish Woodland’s team, who were awarded the contract to plant and maintain the new woodlands, we have now established what we hope will be a welcome asset to the local community and a developing financial asset for Forest Enterprise Scotland.

“We are justifiably proud of what’s been accomplished so far at Sibster and winning this award is a fantastic accolade to the efforts of all involved.

“It just goes to show that ‘productive woodland’, even in the north of Caithness, doesn’t always mean conifers.”

The extremely fertile site presented several challenges (such as keeping the weeds down and creating manageable sward of rye grass) and ground and weather conditions meant that a lot of hand and machine planting and mechanical/hand weeding techniques had to be used.

Scottish Woodland’s Regional Manager North Scotland, Bruce Taylor, said;

“Scottish Woodlands are delighted to have worked with FES to develop Sibster Forest using local contractors to overcome the challenges of this productive site and establish a diverse range of species selected to accommodate climate change. 

“This award is well deserved for the foresight, investment and detailed planning by FES in achieving this extensive forest & recreational resource.”

In summing up their assessment of the site, The Scottish Finest Woods Awards judges said;

“Given the innovative nature of this scheme in a challenging climate and the extent to which it has been welcomed locally (even before the benefits of shelter accrue), we recommend that Sibster Forest should be awarded the Dulverton Flagon.” 

FES foresters mainly responsible for delivering the project, Stephen Fraser (left) and Sean Miller (centre) and the Scottish Woodland Contract Manager, Rhys Llewellyn (right).

Notes to editors

  1. Forestry Commission Scotland is part of the Scottish Government's Environment and Forestry Directorate.
  2. Forest Enterprise Scotland is an agency of Forestry Commission Scotland and manages the National Forest Estate on behalf of Scottish Ministers.
  3. A partnership to run an annual awards programme was first established in 1985. Since 2005 the awards programme has been managed by a not-for-profit company which introduced new award categories for community woodlands and schools in 2006, for new native woods in 2011 and for new commercial woods in 2012.  The company is a registered charity.
  4. Scotland’s Finest Woods’ key delivery partners in 2016 are: BSW Timber Ltd; Egger Forestry; Forestry Commission Scotland; Iggesund Forestry; James Jones & Sons Ltd; Outdoor and Woodland Learning Scotland; Scottish Woodlands Ltd; Tilhill Forestry; Woodland Trust Scotland.
  5. The following have also generously contributed to the running of the awards programme in 2016: Alba Trees; Caledonia Play; Central Scotland Green Network Trust; Community Woodlands Association; Confor; Institute of Chartered Foresters; Royal Scottish Forestry Society; Sylva Foundation.
  6. Tha Coimisean na Coilltearachd Alba na phàirt de Bhuidheann-Stiùiridh na h-Àrainneachd is Coilltearachd aig Riaghaltas na h-Alba. Tha e an urra ri riaghladh agus cumail maoineachadh is comhairle ri coilltearachd ann an Alba. Tha Iomairt Choilltean na h-Alba na fo-bhuidheann aig Coimisean na Coilltearachd Alba a tha a’ ruith Oighreachd na Coille Nàiseanta.
  7. Media enquiries to Paul Munro, Forestry Commission Scotland press office, 0300 067 6507 / 07785 527590 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or Angela Douglas (Executive Director, Scotland's Finest Woods) on 07969 327015