Sustainable rural industry
At 57 degrees North timber grows slowly and reaches maturity, for saw-milling purposes, at between 55 and 100 or more years depending on species. Wartime fellings (both world wars) plus a violent storm in 1953 completely devastated our woodlands and most of the forest area was replanted with 1,250,000 trees between 1958 and 1972.
The large trees in the policy grounds around the castle and some other small areas of trees survived the storm and are older. There are some fine examples of beech, oak, ash and sycamore and also some North American species such as Douglas and Noble Firs. The tallest Douglas Firs, planted in 1930 are now >150′ tall and still growing strongly.
Our timber produce faces international competition from Canada, the Baltic States and Russia and the returns from growing timber are small once the planting, harvesting and transport costs are taken into account.
Some time ago we started a timber harvesting and marketing co-operative with our neighbouring estates and this now handles over 30,000 tons of timber per annum.
Recently the use of timber for biomass has influenced influence timber prices. Timber biomass provides the heat for Kincardine Castle and we keep about 5% of our annual growth for that purpose. Burning timber to provide heat releases carbon but as long as we keep re-establishing trees to replace them the process, including the carbon locked up by forest soils, is sustainable.
We are trying to move away from clear-felling areas of trees to more continuous cover forestry and we are doing works to encourage successful natural regeneration of trees: this includes scarification to increase the success of seedlings and deer control to suppress the activity of browsers. All being well this should tip the balance in favour of getting more trees to plant themselves. The result will probably be slightly less-productive but far more attractive woodlands containing a pleasing mixture of species including more silver birch trees. We hope to reduce our dependence on fencing.