Community Woodland Larch Removal News

Update on SPHN – Larch Removal

You may have seen our previous post P-Ramorum SPHN Received that was posted on 5th November last year. There have been significant developments since and indeed work is likely to start to remove the larch in the next few weeks.

To recap, following a routine inspection by Scottish Forestry last summer, the tree disease, phytophthora ramorum or P.ramorum was detected in two locations within the woodland.

This resulted in a Statutory Plant Health Notice, SPHN, being issued by Scottish Forestry on the 1st November 2021 to CCDT. This notice requires the felling and removal of all larch trees from a large area around the affected trees over an area of some 21.37 hectares in the North West area of the woodland. The map outlines the affected area in red.

While a significant number of larch trees will be felled in this area, there will remain a considerable number of magnificent other trees including beech, douglas firs, scots pine and spruce trees. Every effort will be made to ensure these trees are protected during the larch felling and removal operation. It is worth noting that CCDT had planned to thin out the larch trees to reduce the risk of such infection. Events have however overtaken this initiative.

Following a tender process the company RTS Forestry has been contracted by CCDT to carry out the felling and removal of the larch trees. The work to remove the trees is scheduled to start week commencing 10th January.

The felling work will be carried out in phases over 6 to 8 weeks. The aim is to avoid large areas of the woodland being closed off at any one time.

The areas that are being felled will be closed off to public access by RTS. Paths will be closed using signs, barrier tape and where appropriate physical barriers. Trees close to any active paths will be felled under banksmen supervision. CCDT are requesting that members of the public that wish to use the woodland while the work is being carried out adhere to notices and restrictions to access for their own safety.

Information boards will be posted at the main entrances and this website will be used to provide information on areas that are closed off.

Brash matts will be used to minimise ground damage but some damage inevitable at this time of year. The aim is to keep vehicle movements off the path network where possible. If this is unavoidable, the path will be protected with brash and crossings points kept to a minimum.

Due to the number of trees to be felled, and timescales involved this felling will be completed mostly by machinery.  Onsite there will be a harvester and a forwarder to extract the timber to a stacking area near the walled garden.  From the stacking area it will then be loaded onto a timber lorry for extraction and sale to market. It is expected that the felling operation will be finished by 28th February while the haulage operation is likely to last until at least the end of March.

The stacked logs will be transported out of the woodland along an existing access road directly onto Polmaise Road. The contractor is aware of timing restrictions due to the proximity to local schools.

The felled timber will be sent to sawmills and wood processing plants that are certified to handle timber affected by P.ramorum.

CCDT will receive an income from the sale of the timber. The amount will not be known until the timber is graded and weighed. The income from the felled timber will allow CCDT to invest in projects for the benefit of the community. 

CCDT currently has in place a woodland management plan which includes a number of projects to make the woods more accessible. These include upgrading and improving the path network as well as erecting signage, way-markers and interpretation boards. The work to improve the walled garden will also benefit. The additional funding will allow these projects to advance more quickly, covid restrictions permitting. 

In the longer term the affected area will be replanted with new trees that are not as susceptible to tree diseases. The planting scheme will be developed once the clearing is finished with a view to a first phase planting towards the end of the year, 2022. It is intended that the community will be involved in developing the replanting scheme.

This will be a challenging time for the woodland but with a focused approach the aim is to complete the felling within the SPHN area by the Scottish Forestry deadline of 28th February.  This is a legal obligation that must be met. We will continue to engage with and update the community during the phases of these operations through signage and information on our website and social media.

The larch dominant area of the woodland will look significantly different in a few months’ time and we will all have an important role to play in the restocking and regeneration of our woodland for generations to come.