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Excellence in forests and woodlands honoured at ‘Tree Oscars’

A forest designed to fight against climate change, a young farmer mixing trees and pigs, and a community woodland in a country park were all honoured at Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards 2023.

Coupled with a special award for forestry which balanced commercial aims with biodiversity and the wider environment, as well as a woodland planted in memory of a lost family member and some fine examples of schools and early years projects, the ceremony at the Royal Highland Show was a true celebration of all that is good about Scotland’s forests and woodlands.

Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards 2023 – © Julie Broadfoot

This year’s winner of the prestigious CarbonStore trophy for Climate Change Champion was The Future Forest Company Ltd for Dumyat, near Stirling.

According to judges, they have produced a “multi-use forest for the future”, with the main objectives of carbon sequestration, enhancing biodiversity and providing for communities, both now and for years to come.

There is a total planting area of 184 ha with over 340,000 trees, and an avoidance of monoculture with the use of 18 different species of tree, as well as plans to introduce wildflower meadows to increase biodiversity.

A brilliant example of agroforestry using pigs won David Carruth the Scottish Woodlands Ltd. Trophy for Young People for his work at at Brodoclea, Dalry, North Ayrshire for The Future Forest Company.

The judges praised the “innovation being shown in establishing this enterprise” while David told them he works with a herd of 163 Mangalitza pigs on the forest floor. David added: “The local ecology responds well to the pigs as they create opportunities for birds, invertebrates and small mammals. We monitor biodiversity onsite through conducting surveys and recording our observations.

“For the pigs, the constant access to fresh foliage means that I only supply them with 3% of their total diet through summer months. They are healthier and happier because they have large social circles and can constantly engage with the woodland.”

Winner of the Tim Stead Trophy for overall Community Woodland – Volunteers at Almondell

Winner of the Large Community Woodland Group competition and of the Tim Stead Trophy for the overall Community Woodland Award were Friends of Almondell & Calderwood with West Lothian Council for Almondell Woods at Almondell & Calderwood Country Park.

They delivered rejuvenation and restoration projects within the boundaries of the old Almondell Estate, restoring a 19th century walled garden with building work and the planting of fruit trees to demonstrate heritage cultivation methods. There is now also a community heritage trail around 9 historic features dating from 1790’s, as well some great woodland management.

The judges said: “Overall, Almondell Woodlands is exemplary in the partnership which has established between a Local Authority woodland owner and a “Local friends of Group.” And importantly, those involved are still enjoying being involved.”

Winner of the Dulverton Flagon, an occasional award given at the judges’ discretion for a successful balance between commercial forestry and competing objectives was Ardachuple, in a National Scenic Area at the Kyles of Bute, Cowal – owned by Bamberg Ltd, the trophy was collected by Bryan Pearce of Tilhill.

The work saw them establish a productive crop using sound silviculture. At the same time they developed biodiversity for the benefit of wildlife and raptors, and enhanced habitat where possible existing native woodlands.

The judges said: “Ardachuple was an extremely well designed, planned and implemented scheme which showed how commercial woodland can be established in a very sensitive landscape.”

The winner of the Woodland Trust Scotland Trophy for New Native Woods was Martyn’s Wood, Crannich, Isle of Mull.

It was planted in memory of Martyn Osmond, the nephew of owner Robin Sedgwick, who passed away as a result of a tragic accident on January 1, 2009, at the age of just 21. Robin told the judges: “We felt planting this woodland at a time of great sadness would turn a negative situation into a positive ‘living’ future.”

It was difficult to have a good tree establishment on infertile, exposed, treeless land. Because of that they used Alder and Poplar, both fast growing, to nurse the more tender stems of Oak, Willow, Rowan, Silver Birch and Hazel. The bulk of the Poplar will be removed once the woodland is fully established.

Meanwhile, Fordyce Primary School near Portsoy in Aberdeenshire took home the Crown Estate Scotland Schools’ Trophy.

The judges summed up the tireless work of the pupils and staff: “The project was multifaceted and included the Fordyce Plantation project where the pupils worked with the local estate in an area of forestry adjacent to the school to identify and map the Badger setts for forest management purposes.

“The pupils also planted a woodland in the school grounds as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy Project. What shone out was the pupils’ voice in driving the school improvement journey and their investment in and enthusiasm for the projects. A well-deserved winner.”

Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards 2023 – © Julie Broadfoot

The winner of the Scottish Forestry Early Years’ Trophy was Bushcraft Bairns at Comrie Croft, Perthshire who created a Forest School setting that nurtures connection with nature through play.

Laura Norval, of Bushcraft Bairns, said: “We set up to nurture the seed of children’s development by introducing them to nature through play.”

Her colleague Lynne Copland added: “We are reminding children to be children. We create an environment where we go with what they are interested in.”

The judges praised the use of “waste wood materials from the nearby wedding venue to build structures in the wood, to rooting the entire programme within the curriculum.” They said the result was “a magical woodland space for young people to grow in and learn about trees and woodlands”.

Mairi Gougeon MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform & Islands, who presented the Awards, said: “The Awards are a great opportunity to celebrate our trees and woodlands, and especially, all the inspiring people who care for them. I’d like to congratulate the award winners and everyone who took part.

“This year we’ve had some fantastic entries which shows Scotland really does have a vibrant forestry and woodland sector.

“I’m particularly pleased to see so many children and young people involved in award entries. We need to grow and nurture our future foresters from an early age and attract more young people into the world of forestry. This is an important issue that needs collective public and private action and I’m looking forward to discussing this, and finding solutions, at the forthcoming Scottish Forestry Summit later in the year.”

Jean Nairn, Executive Director of Scotland’s Finest Woods, said: “Once again, Scotland has excelled itself in producing some world-beating examples of forestry and woodland, not least in the important sphere of climate change.

“The awards ceremony is a well-established fixture on the calendar and it is always pleasing to see such a wide range of entries, from early years through to more seasoned foresters, community groups to farmers. I think another benefit of today was that everyone learned something from each other – all doing things differently but with the aim of the environment and trees at the heart of it.”

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