Reuben Ellicott, Forester

16 February 2024

The start of the year was kicked off by clearing plenty of storm damage throughout the estate, this is just one example of some of the mature trees that have fallen in the last two months. This particular tree was a mature Sycamore which had a significant lean on it and was highly exposed so it was just a matter of time. A positive that came away from this is that there was a high volume of firewood processed from the tree and brash chipped used for the gardens.


Between November and March is the season for planting trees, this year we’ve planted just over 8000 trees (including hedge planting) in ‘beating- up’ (replacing dead trees), planting clearings in mature woods like in the top picture and a freshly planted windbreak consisting of 2200 trees shown in the bottom picture. Due to losing so many mature trees in the past year to more and more frequent storms, next planting season we will be focusing on replanting all previous storm damage and planting clearings in mature woods to thicken thin sections of wood so that in the future the woods are more resilient to windblow.



Processing firewood is another winter job, so it has time to season before the following winter. The estate requires at least 60 potato boxes worth of firewood each year but because of previous thinning’s and the amount of storm damage, there is now 3 years’ worth of firewood not including timber stacks.



Many of us may think hedge laying is a past trade however it is very much alive as a small group of us from the estate were lucky enough to have a go and learn the skills needed to be able to lay hedges. This winter there has been 500 metres of hedge laying through a few courses hosted by Balcaskie, next year we are hoping to lay 1 kilometre of hedge rows all going well however it is not a fast process.

As the planting season comes to an end our main priority will be to replace broken stakes in all the young plantations around Balcaskie as many snap in high winds or become loose in wetter ground. If broken stakes are not regularly replaced deer and other grazing animals will graze the buds of the young trees which may stunt the trees growth or even eventually kill the tree.

We will also be continuing with thinning a windbreak called Long Stenton as all the trees are becoming tall and thin. Once the thinning is complete the plan is to plant an under- canopy of evergreens such as Holly, Laurel, and Rhododendron in an effort to dampen noise pollution but also so the woods more effective as a windbreak. I am estimating to harvest around 20- 25 tons of timber from the thinning which will be processed into firewood with the exception of larger straight logs which are excellent for milling.

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