Chris Thomson, Forestry Manager

11 March 2022

I have now spent two months at Balcaskie which have been thoroughly enjoyable. I think I have met most of the team though some only briefly! I will use this blog to give everyone a bit of my background and how I ended up here, what I have been doing so far and some of my aims for the future development of Balcaskies woodlands.

I was born and raised in Dollar, which is where I first picked up a chainsaw, cutting firewood with my Dad on local farms.  I always looked for a career in the outdoors and studied Conservation Management at Elmwood in the 90’s. It was from here I went to Finland to study forestry, not knowing at the time it would be over twenty years before I would return to Scotland permanently.

Over this time, I have worked in a number of countries throughout Europe and also Russia, Australia and Alaska. Though my specialisation was in mechanised timber harvesting operating harvester and forwarders I have also had other roles within the timber industry such as machine and chainsaw trainer and managing arb and landscaping crews.

I returned to Scotland two years ago, just as lock down started and moved back to Dollar. Having spent so many years involved with the commercial side of forestry I was interested in developing my skills further. Forestry management was always an option though the aspect of sitting in an office planning on a computer with the occasional field trip did not interest me. However, when I saw the job advertised at Balcaskie it immediately appealed.

Starting in January so far most of my work has been clearing up after Storm Arwen! To my knowledge all the trees and branches are now cleared from the stock fences so Jim and his team can go in and repair them. You will see stacks of wood everywhere and with the purchase of a new log splitter these will become firewood over the next few months. Some of the larger trees on the Policies have been left in situ for the moment but I am planning to tidy them up and use the branches to create “dead hedges” to protect the replanted trees. The clean-up is still ongoing, especially in the more outlying woodlands, for example there are several windblown Scots Pine in Knights Ward. Many of these are of sawlog quality so I am planning to get them sawmilled into suitable timber which can be used on the estate.

As part of a team with Gavin and Jeremy also allows me to take a “break” from forestry. I have helped Gavin reinstate the beech hedge on the West Drive and we will be developing more plans for the Gardens which need both our skill sets. We have also been preparing an area of Bishops Wood where the pigs can be released to grub up the invasive snowberry.

Jeremy has been heavily involved with the tree and hedge planting for the Estate over the last few years and I will be working closely with him to continue this work. This will include beating up on established replanted areas, identifying more areas for replanting and the removal of plastic tree tubes. The use of these tree tubes ubiquitous but is something I, and many other foresters, would like to move away from. This will be an ongoing project!

Other plans will be sourcing a contractor to harvest timber for the estates Biomass plants. The windblow spruce trees on Sandyrigg Wood at Stenton have been earmarked for felling and should easily provide the 500 tonnes required. There are also small patches of windblow up at Falfields wood and with the arrival of a tractor and trailer I aim to harvest these myself.


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