This week’s speaker at the Stonehaven and District Probus Club was Emily Holmes, recreation and communities ranger with the Forestry Commission, Scotland.
The Forestry Commission came into being in 1919 as a result of the nation’s chronic domestic timber shortage which was brought to crisis point by WW1. Its brief was simply to develop afforestation and the production of timber. The hard work of those 20 inter-war years arrested the wholesale decline of our woodlands and began to reverse it, and proved a much-needed asset during WW2.
After 1945, much effort was needed to restore the forests to their pre-war condition.
However, because this often clashed with the need to produce home-grown food it resulted in forestry being moved to marginal land. Also, from the 1970s, conservation and amenity issues became more central to the Commission’s policy; an awareness of public access and recreation needs grew along with landscape and conservation considerations and the public were given the ‘right to roam’ in Commission forests.
Since each forest has its own management plan tailored to suit its individual character and needs, Emily went into more detail about Dunnottar Woods. So although there is a felling operation currently ongoing in Dunnottar, we will see no HGVs or large logging machines - the ground here is too delicate for the necessary roads. Instead, chainsaws are used to thin out and allow natural regeneration. Of course this makes management much less economic, but today recreation and conservation issues are considered more important. Nowadays ancient woodland is being encouraged to revert back to its orginial state with the planting of more broadleaf species.
Dunnottar is among the forestry sites designated as ‘WIAT’ - Woods In and Around Town.
These are woods within one kilometre of a settlement over 2,000 people. It means that Dunnottar is a community wood, a wood for the people, and Emily described what this means for our wood. There are five schools within Dunnottar’s catchment area and Emily has visited them all to explain how the wood can be a wonderful education resource, and showed examples of the work produced by the children as a result.
The encouraging news for the future is that the Commission has set a target of increasing Scottish woodland from its present 17% of land to 25% by 2025.
The vote of thanks was proposed by Alan Petty.