Renewed interest in woodlands

Participants at the recent woodland and conservation workshop discuss habitat management at Baillieknowe farm near Kelso (Photo: Val Angus)
Participants at the recent woodland and conservation workshop discuss habitat management at Baillieknowe farm near Kelso (Photo: Val Angus)

Woodlands are firmly back on the agenda according to Simon Jacyna, Scottish Agricultural College’s senior woodland consultant after an event held in the Borders to promote active woodland management alongside sustainable land management for wildlife.

“Many woodlands planted in the post war period have not had the management they require to optimise their true potential,” said Simon. “Well managed woodlands can offer a whole raft of benefits from providing timber of marketable quality to creating wildlife habitat and from providing shelter for livestock, to helping with climate change through locking up carbon in the soil. New woodlands, when planted and connected to other habitats on the farm such as hedgerows, wildbird cover areas and watercourses, can provide valuable habitat for wildlife too.

“It is great to see renewed interest amongst the Borders farming community for woodland management and planting. There is a long history of woodland culture in the Borders which is plain to see just by looking around us. Grants for planting and managing woodlands have never been more attractive, so it’s well worth farmers looking seriously at their woodlands to see what additional benefits they can offer the farm.

“Marketable timber can be achieved by planting appropriate tree species. Some of our hardwoods such as oak, ash, sycamore and beech may provide a good financial return in future, if protected from browsing animals and if trimmed and limbed properly. The cost of heating fuel is increasing year on year and firewood can provide a good source of sustainable and renewable heat. Conifer tree species such as spruce, pine and larch can be chipped and sold to provide woodfuel for domestic boilers.

“On environmental grounds, woodlands (especially woods with trees native to the area such as rowan and silver birch) are a very useful habitat as they provide places for nesting birds such as song thrush, redstart and tawny owls. Native woodlands also provide significant landscape benefits by providing structural diversity and autumn colour.”

Derek Robeson, SAC’s Borders based conservation consultant said; “There have been many real success stories over recent years in relation to positive wildlife conservation. For example, hundreds of kilometres of new hedgerows have been planted. These provide berries for our birds and wildflowers at the hedge base for our butterfly species. Many of our watercourses have been fenced off to help retain clean water for our fish and create bankside habitat for otters.”

SAC would like to encourage farmers and other land managers to build on these positive initiatives and find out more about farm woodland planting and habitat management by contacting the local office at Greycrook on 01835 823322.