Hitting the sweet spot

David Lee ,
7 Mar 2019

This weeks blog has been written by David Lee, Communications Adviser to Scotland's Finest Woods Awards. Scotland's Finest Woods Awards highlights all that is best in Scotland's management of its woods and forests, showcasing how they contribute to the wealth and well-being of Scotland's people. Amongst a line-up of 6 awards and 10 competitions, the 2019 awards includes a centenary prize to mark the 1919 Forestry Act. For full details of how to enter the Awards [by March 31st], click here.

The search is on to find the finest forests and most wonderful woods in Scotland – the places that have found the sweet spot where economic and environmental benefits go hand in hand.
Estates across the country will vie for the top prizes in Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards 2019 – to follow Elderslie Estates in Renfrewshire and Kenmore Forest by Inveraray, Argyll. Judges couldn’t split the two very different estates last year and they shared the Quality Timber Award for a whole forest and estate - because of their sheer excellence in finding that balance.
Mark Crichton Maitland, owner of Elderslie, said the estate had worked hard to "take forestry out of the woodland box and look at it in the context of land use that delivers conservation and commercial benefits". He thought Elderslie won the award for pushing boundaries, moving beyond the tired forestry vs agriculture debate - and looking instead at diversified and effective modern land use. This included experimental eucalyptus plantings and Mark promised Elderslie would stay "in the vanguard of innovation". 
Tom McLellan, Forest Manager at Kenmore, thought it stood out for its unique consistency of management over a very long period. Forester Ian MacKenzie helped his father plant the estate in the 1950s and 60s and has worked there almost continuously to today. He has felled the first planting over the last 18 years and was then involved in second generation planting, finished last year.
"Commercial timber production is very important in the forest, but so is delivery biodiversity, habitat and landscape," said Tom. "That mix is crucial to us."
In the North East, Invercauld Estate near Braemar won the New Native Woods award for securing the long-term future of Caledonian Pine Woods. Again, it was all about balance. As Ian Hill, Forester at Invercauld Estate, said: “We have produced that commercial forestry, native woodlands and public access can all work in the same place.” 
The Farm Woodland category has been beefed up in 2019 with two Awards, one for all entrants and another for under-40s who have embraced diversity and excellence. Last year, the judges in the inaugural Farm Woodland Award described Tullo Farm near Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire, as “a near-perfect example of an arable farm woodland integration project - enhancing the diversity of future business opportunities while dramatically enhancing the environment.”
Yet Tullo was trumped by Peter Gascoigne in Peebles-shire, where judges noted that his tree planting had helped deliver healthier and heavier lambs. Again Mr Gascoigne hit the sweet spot. As he put it: “We have commercial forestry but I have put in a lot of hardwoods. I want those trees and the wildlife I have brought back - red squirrels, frogs, badgers, brown hares - to be my legacy, to survive for generations to come.”