Latest News - A forester's life with Strathbogie volunteer Norman Davidson

A forester's life with Strathbogie volunteer Norman Davidson

I first entered Clashindarroch Forest in 1989 and as I worked my way around all its by-ways over the next seventeen years I was captivated by its land form, fantastic stands of trees, the views from the high tops and above all by its diversity of structure, wildlife and use by people.

In the early days the area was a rolling landscape of hills and valleys clothed in heather and rough grass of around 5000 hectares into which the first trees were planted in 1931. Gangs of men and foresters struggled in the early years to get the trees to grow through the rank heather. Later, large areas of the larch trees suffered severe disease problems but the teams persevered with replanting and replacing trees, fertilising and draining. Finally after thirty years and well in excess of 15 million little trees, all individually planted by hand, the forest emerged and the trees grew tall.

Foresters try to manage forests and fell the trees just before they grow too tall when the risk of devastating wind blow is very high but this stage varies with soil conditions, position in the landscape and of course those unexpected exceptional gales. It is at this stage that there is the opportunity to start to create real diversity in the forest. As you can imagine wall to wall trees suits red squirrels very well but perhaps not ideal for insects and little fish in the streams, for birds and mammals that live on mice and voles, for insects such a bees and butterflies and even for people using the forest. A forest is never static it is always growing and always changing.

In the 1990s Forest Enterprise rolled out their revolutionary Forest Design concept of managing a forest. There were three important stages the first being to look at the overall forest and try and identify apart from timber production which areas were important for people to carry out recreational activities, which areas were important for key wild life species, areas for archaeology and also for landscape value. The next stage was to break the forest into a whole series of areas called coupes resembling a patch work quilt and to assign felling years to each. Thirdly put out the plan for consultation.

Now imagine you are the forester and you have to come up with a plan that addresses the needs of species such as red squirrels, badgers, Scottish wildcats, nesting raptors and also conserve archaeological sites, ensure a constant mix of open space, young growing trees and trees ready for felling before they are blown and broken by the wind, meet requests for avid participants in Nordic skiing, long distance horse riding, car rallies and maintain continuous supplies of high quality timber to the wood mills. If you are up for that challenge – you are a forester!

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Image for Norman Davidson (1)

A retired Forestry Commission Scotland forester with over 40 years of experience and someone who knows Clashindarroch Forest, the home of one of Scotland's last populations of Scottish wildcats, better than most.

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