New love…an electric chainsaw

Dear Woodlanders,

This past couple weeks has been a rollercoaster of weather, a big freeze followed by a big thaw and plenty of the wet stuff. February has often been called the wettest month, well so far that has proved quite accurate. Here’s what’s been happening at our end.

Saturday saw a return of the small but mighty grab-mounted excavator with Richard Blore at the controls. This time the focus was on crunching and uprooting rhodies at the castle pond to give the ongoing efforts there a mechanised boost. Three fires consumed a vast amount of material, though habitat piles were also created. The ground disturbance of this small machine is minimal, and the removal of many of these rhododendron stems from the ground will be of great benefit to the ground layer of that patch of the woods. As mentioned previously, it is hoped that by removing these invasive woody weeds, we can allow more the native assembly of woodland plants to establish themselves, and for the trees to set seed and regenerate. All this will work on a timescale of decades, but such is the nature of forestry.

The rhody-eating mechanical monster!

Recently I have really been enjoying the new addition to our armoury – the Husqvarna 540ixp*. This small, electric chainsaw is as deadly as it is nimble. Very light, very quick, it proved perfectly suited to rhody bashing! More pleasant to use than a petrol equivalent as it’s so much quieter. This tool was supplied by Robert Dykes Jnr in Thornhill. They’re awesome guys – for chainsaws, mowers and other tools, they can get you sorted.

Silent and deadly…. It’s the ninja of chainsaws

When the freeze was upon us I took the opportunity to cut and split the last of the ash from the first round of walled garden felling. Splitting frozen wood is incredibly satisfying, especially with one of our new Fiskars mauls*. Can’t wait to get a team of firewood-splitting volunteers down to the woods once we get up and running. This small quantity is now lying in a heap ready to find a home – if you want some top quality firewood for next winter give me a shout.

The woods rang with the sound of the mighty Stihl 661 on Thursday, as Tom McBain came by to lend a hand milling some of the larch that Richard Blore helped extract the week before. Several beautiful boards were cut to provide material for a new bench for the castle grounds. Looking forward to seeing that sited. It feels good to be sourcing and processing wood from the site to be crafted into woodland furniture. It’s about maximising the resources we have.

Waste not want not (Photo credit to Gillian McBain)

As I have mentioned before, I am keen to hear from any sculptors or woodworkers with artistic inclinations – I would love to see some art going up in the woods. In my past life, I worked in a big forest at Grizedale, in Cumbria. The forest there was full of sculptures and the element of magic and creativity that it gave the place was really special, especially its setting in a working forest, amid wildlife and timber production. Perhaps Gillies Hill can take on a similar power with the help of some artistic expression. 

In other news, I got some new wheels. The beloved Astravan met an untimely end after it was struck from behind on the road. That vehicle did me well and shall be missed. However, this proved a good opportunity to upgrade and I am now the owner of a tidy Berlingo.

The new van in its natural habitat

The CCDT photo competition has come to an end I am looking forward to shortlisting the entries! So many awesome photos, this will be no easy task! Many thanks to all who submitted a picture.

Stay tuned for more updates, and as ever, please don’t hesitate to get in touch about anything woodsy.

Cheers for now,


*These items were funded by a grant awarded from the Scottish Government’s Community Climate Asset Fund, for CCDT to help the Cambusbarron community to reduce local carbon emissions through developing a local community woodfuel supply. More info will be supplied on this shortly as well as community consultation surveys.

The CCAF is Scottish Government fund, administered by Keep Scotland Beautiful, and 279 community-based organisations from across Scotland have been awarded more than £3.2 million of funding to tackle climate change.