News, stories and reports from Forestry Commission Scotland and the National Forest Estate

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News, stories and reports from Forestry Commission Scotland and the National Forest Estate. You can follow this feed with RSS or Atom, or on Twitter. We also publish press releases.

Reading the ruins: consolidating the broch of Caisteal Grugaig

The broch of Caisteal Grugaig overlooks Loch Alsh at Totaig. It was built around 2,000 years ago, part of an Iron Age settlement tradition of small defended homesteads found all along the Atlantic coast of Scotland. The word broch comes from the Norse ‘borg’, meaning fort. But although they protected their occupants, they also demonstrated land ownership and tenure. Brochs were built in places with good agricultural potential, with relatively productive soils and sheltered conditions. The people who built them were farmers, growing oats and barley and rearing stock. The brochs were set within pockets of cultivated land and wider areas of unenclosed pasture, often with unrestricted access to the sea.

16641 Caisteal Grugaig copyright Lynn Fraser LF 8931b low res

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Why we use chemicals to protect young trees.

There’s been some media interest in the use of chemicals in forestry and in particular on the National Forest Estate.

We spoke to Jo Ellis, Forest Enterprise Scotland’s Acting Head of Land Management to find out a bit more about why, how and when chemicals are used to protect our young trees.

Why do you need to use chemicals for tree planting?

“It’s important that everyone understands that our default position on chemicals is very clear. We only use them when it is necessary.  

“We use the chemicals to control a pine weevil called Hylobius abietis which is the most serious threat to newly planted or naturally regenerating trees; if left untreated, the weevils will destroy on average around 50 per cent of them.

“Each year, the UK forestry industry loses around £5 million worth of trees to this weevil so it is a real problem.”

Are chemicals safe to use?

“The EU has one of the strictest regulatory systems in the world regarding the use of pesticides. All pesticides are thoroughly assessed to ensure a high level of protection for human, animal and environmental health. In March this year, the EU reviewed the use of acetamiprid (which we use to protect young trees) and approved its use up until 2033.”


Is there an alternative to using chemicals?               

“We already use a good number of other treatment options but sometimes the use of acetamiprid is necessary. There has been some good news very recently though with Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing announcing £500,000 funding to explore other ways to tackle weevil damage – this could ultimately reduce the amount of chemicals used if we find other alternative treatments."

How do you use the chemical to protect young trees?

“We don’t blanket spray – when we use chemicals we use them in a very targeted way.

“Where pesticide use is necessary, our young trees are pre-treated in an off-site tree nursery or building, and this may be combined with later post planting treatment via a hand sprayer to individual trees. All these targeted treatments are carried out in a way that minimises any environmental impact.”

Who regulates the use of chemicals in the UK?

“It’s a job for the Health and Safety Executive – they are responsible for the regulation of chemicals in the UK. They set the limits of how much chemical can be used for each use whether it is for agricultural use or in forestry or even in your garden. We ensure that we are within these limits and that the treatments are carried out properly."

Do you always use chemicals out in the forest to treat young trees against weevils?

"No – not at all. You have to look at each restocking site on a case by case basis and judge whether weevils are likely to cause a major threat to the young trees. Many of our sites don’t need top up spraying.

“We wouldn’t use chemicals if we didn’t think it was necessary and the chemical we use has been safety tested by the EU and is regulated very tightly by the Health and Safety Executive.”

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New forwarders and harvesters allow work on sensitive sites

A key forest management operation for Forest Enterprise Scotland (FES) is thinning trees which creates better quality timber and makes the trees more resilient to pests and diseases. Thinning also opens up the tree canopy to encourage greater biodiversity and a more accessible forest. Not all forests can be thinned, as some are on soils, or at elevations where thinning would actually be detrimental to the growth of the trees by creating windblow scenarios.

The majority of the National Forest Estate (NFE) is essentially ‘manmade’ forests. Thinning creates a more naturalised and aesthetically appealing forest.   In the past thinning was done by hand, which was physically demanding and dangerous work. However this work has now been replaced by machines which has improved safety and very much speeded up the process.


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Helping the pearl mussel to survive through sustainable forest management

Fresh water pearl mussels aren’t something you’d normally think about when you enter a forest. But most of the world’s remaining populations of fresh water pearl mussels live in rivers and streams in partially or wholly forested catchments. This means sustainable forest management has a pivotal role to play in conserving this globally threatened population.

The FES North Highland Forest District has the largest concentration of extant pearl mussel rivers in both Scotland and the UK, and the Environment Team has led efforts to conserve pearl mussel populations.


 Photo credit Ian Mckee.

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Newton Nursery now part of FES

Newton Nursery in Morayshire is now managed by Forest Enterprise Scotland (FES). This will allow FES to take on full responsibility for its future plant and seed supply, including seed stands and orchards, seed collections, storage and sales.

newton nursery

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Branching Out celebrates holding 300 projects

Branching Out – FCS’s award-winning mental health and wellbeing project – celebrates holding 300 projects helping over 2,000 people since it was launched 10 years ago.  

Branching Out

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Successful tree felling as part of challenging steep ground programme works

5,300 tonnes of timber has been felled and extracted as part of the on-going and challenging steep ground programme works under the A82 project.

The latest felling was completed at Primrose Bay (Loch Ness), in June where the operations team has been working for over 18 months. The felled timber has many uses, including one 9.0 metre long log which will be crafted into an Iron Age canoe.

view from primrose bay

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Four more communities successful in purchasing parts of the National Forest Estate

Four more applications for communities to buy or lease parts of the National Forest Estate have been approved under the Community Asset Transfer Scheme (CATS).

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A 9.0 meter Douglas Fir is being converted into an Iron Age canoe

An unusually large log was sourced from the National Forest Estate (NFE) to be converted into an Iron Age canoe, demonstrating the diversity and quality of timber grown on the NFE.

A number of specialist timber customers seek quality, large dimension timber for a manner of conventional and sometimes unusual applications. Logs of the size requested by the School of Ancient Crafts in Edinburgh – a 9.0 meter log with a top diameter of 0.8 meters - are not common. However one was sourced after some stunning Douglas Fir trees had been harvested at Primrose Bay in Inverness, Ross and Skye Forest District as part of the A82 project.

Finding the right tree at Primrose Bay was one thing but recovering it was another matter on what is a technically challenging site. This particular log was extracted the entire length of the harvesting site and skilfully placed at roadside, a testimony to the professionalism of both local FES staff and harvesting contractors.

In June the log was transported to the Hub in Granton, Edinburgh where its conversion into a canoe will take place over the summer by workshops held to give the local and the wider community an opportunity to learn new skills. 

9.0m Douglas Fir

The 9.0 meter Douglas Fir log awaiting uplift from Primrose Bay.

The tee ready to be lowered

The Primrose Bay Douglas Fir log about to be lowered into its new home at the Hub, Granton

While Primrose Bay has predominantly yield specialist Douglas Fir logs, this summer two loads of Oak logs where purchased by Fife based Scottish Wood who only purchase Scottish timber for a range of projects and applications. Demand for Oak is particularly strong across the UK and increasingly for characterful timber which is good news for growers such as FES who have resources of this type of timber. 

oak logs

Oak logs from Primrose Bay ready to be processed at Scottish Wood near Dunfermline.

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