Argyll Forest Wins Top Award in Scotland’s ‘Tree Oscars’

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The 1,278 hectare Kenmore Forest, by Inveraray, was jointly awarded the John Kennedy Trophy for Multi-purpose Woodlands in the Whole Forest or Estate category of the Quality Timber Awards in the annual Scotland’s Finest Woodlands competition (www.sfwa.co.uk).

The judges could not split the equally excellent Houston Farms Partnership for the Elderslie Estates in Renfrewshire and the Hunt-Grubbe Family Trust for Kenmore Forest.

The awards were presented by Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, at the Royal Highland Show.

He said: ‘New figures have shown that Scotland is responsible for almost 80 per cent of new forest and woodland creation in the UK. This is testament to the value and importance of our £1 billion forestry and timber industry and the economic, environmental and social contribution it makes.’

The judges recognised that when the Hunt-Grubbe Family Trust acquired Kenmore Forest in 1999, ‘they had a vision of transforming what was a first generation planted forest with pioneer species into a diverse multi-purpose forest with a focus on high quality timber and improved access for recreation. Through the skills, commitment and experience of the forest managers this has been achieved.  The first rotation produced high quality timber but by careful selection of planting stock and good silvicultural practice, timber quality in the second rotation is proving to be even better, some of it exceptional.’

The judges also noted that in 2001 Kenmore Forest was given a High Commendation in the Large Woodlands category of the Scotland’s Finest Woodlands Awards.

Part of the transformation has been a major restoration of ancient woodland that along with retained stands of conifers will create excellent habitat for the thriving population of red squirrels, together with pine martins, raptors and other wildlife.

Recreational opportunities are also excellent on the extensive network of forest roads and ATV tracks which permeate the forest that allow the public to enjoy walking, cycling, pony trekking and climbing Dun Leacainn Crag.

Tom McLellan, who has been the forest manager at Kenmore Forest for the last 18 years, said: ‘Commercial timber production is very important in the forest, but so is the delivery of biodiversity, habitat, landscape and interaction with the local community. There are two hamlets that lie within the forest, Kenmore and Pennymore, with a total of 19 houses in or adjacent to the forest. In addition we manage 17 sites of historical interest.

‘If you have 60 to 70 per cent of the forest area comprising commercial timber, you can integrate and deliver all those other attributes that forestry provides. That mix is crucial to us.’

Kenmore Forest was established as a commercial forest between 1957 and 1971 with the production of quality timber being the primary objective.

The forester at the time was John MacKenzie, who along with his son Ian established most of the first generation forest.

Mr McLellan continued: ‘Ian carried on as forester at Kenmore Forest over most of the last 50 years after his father retired and in subsequent years he has been involved in harvesting the first generation forest and replanting all of the second generation of trees which was completed this year, something that very few foresters are able to achieve.’

Virtually all of the timber from Kenmore Forest has been processed at sawmills and other market outlets in Scotland to be used for house construction, engineered wood products, paper and woodfuel. It is estimated that the total ‘factory gate’ value of the finished products produced from the conifer timber harvested in the first rotation – Gross Value Added – would be of the order of £27-£30 million in today’s terms. This illustrates the value that can be derived from 1,000 hectares of commercial conifer forest.

The second generation forest has been established with the same aim of producing quality saw logs, with harvesting of the second rotation of conifers being expected to commence around 2027 from a productive area of around 70 per cent of the forest. The remaining 30 per cent of the forest will comprise mixed broad leaf and conifer trees together with open ground, and management of this area will be focused primarily on biodiversity, habitat and recreation as noted earlier.

All of this has been achieved by Argyll-based managers, contractors and operatives who have felled and extracted the merchantable timber, hauled it to market, constructed forest roads, prepared the ground for the second generation of forest, together with planting and maintaining the trees, thereby ensuring that the value of all this work goes back into the local economy. This was important to the forest owners.

The diversity of tree species and age classes now being established within Kenmore Forest will, over time, further enhance the landscape of the area and ensure that the forest provides a sustainable, balanced and dynamic forest ecosystem capable of supporting sustained timber yields and continuing to provide long term employment and value to the local economy.

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