Hannah Munro, Rural Estates Student

01 May 2023

I joined Balcaskie at the beginning of the year as a rural estate student and have so far been working throughout the whole estate. From being in the gardens of Balcaskie house, to maintaining and thinning woodlands, to helping in the butchery for market weekends and helping when I could with lambing this year, I have really got a feel for most of the estate.

With studying forestry, I was most looking forward to gaining experience in that department and putting what I have learnt into practice.

Getting more time and experience on the chainsaw was something I was most excited for when I first started. I have certainly gained a lot of experience with the first big thinning task at mountains, a patch of woodland on the north of the estate.

The purpose of this thinning was to remove the Ash trees and to thin out the conifers which consisted of mainly Larch and Scots pine.

Removing the Ash trees was necessary due to Ash dieback. This disease is caused by a fungus infecting the leaves, branches and eventually the trunk of the tree. As the disease progresses in the branches, it makes them weak and prone to break more easily. The tree can be felled in a more controlled manor if they are removed before the disease starts to infect the trunk and it potentially just snapping.

In the gardens, we are entering the busy season of mowing. One of the tasks I was given was to do the first cut of the season in the orchard. The template of this cut is in diamond shapes. The orchard is an all year round task. Pruning of the top fruits, such as the apples and pears begin in January and the stone fruits like the cherries get done at the beginning of April.

The concept of the tree shape when pruning is a goblet and an open, this is to then maximise fruit production and air movement.

We choose to winter prune the top fruits due to time constraints in summer and therefore not summer prune.

In March I was invited to the ALBAS awards for LANTRA as a finalist for trees and timber learner of the year. I was lucky enough to win and I am now an industry champion with LANTRA.

My work at Balcaskie has let me continue with my college studies which helped me gain this award. With the forestry industry being mostly male dominated, I felt a real sense of achievement to be getting recognised for the work I am doing.


Another felling task was to clear out this area of ash. The branches have been taken down for wood chip that will then be used as mulch for hedges, fruit and general planting areas. The logs will be cut into blocks then split and used for firewood.

I enjoyed working on this task as it meant more experience on the saw for me.

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